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(Massachusetts protest photo: Dustin M. Slaughter)

Americans outraged by the federal government’s spying programs took to the streets on Independence Day for “Restore the Fourth” protests in an estimated 100 American cities, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Memphis and Miami, plus international cities such as London and Munich.

The “Restore the Fourth” national protest was named after the Fourth Amendment, which was intended to protect Americans against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Iowa "Restore the Fourth" protest (Photo: The Daily Iowan)

The NSA’s PRISM online surveillance program was exposed by Edward Snowden only weeks ago. Americans soon learned that at least nine Internet companies reportedly submitted to government surveillance of their servers: Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL and Apple.

Restore the Fourth,” initially organized on Reddit, describes itself as “a non-partisan, unaffiliated group of concerned citizens who seek to strengthen the Fourth Amendment with respect to digital surveillance by the U.S. government.”

Philadelphia, Pa., "Restore the Fourth" rally (Photo: Jeff Kolakowski)

“The July 4th demonstrations seek to demand an end to the unconstitutional surveillance methods employed by the U.S. government and to ensure that all future government surveillance is constitutional, limited, and clearly defined,” the group explained.

“Restore the Fourth aims to ensure that the will of the people is reflected in the government of the United States of America. This movement intends to bring an end to twelve years of Fourth Amendment abuses, and demonstrate the need for a return to the Constitution. All Americans should stand with them in this cause to protect the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

"Restore the Fourth" rally locations

The group is calling for Congress to:

1) Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;

2) Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;

3) Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.

The Internet Defense League – a coalition of thousands of websites that sound the alarm whenever there is a major threat to the free and open Internet – organized a major online protest to amplify the efforts of the Restore the Fourth protesters.

Americans are being directed to CallForFreedom.org, a web page where they can share Fourth Amendment themed images, call Congress to demand investigations into NSA programs and donate to help fund television ads about NSA surveillance.

“The U.S. Government has been systematically spying on people all over the globe, violating their human rights,” Fight for the Future co-founder Tiffiniy Cheng said in a statement. “The NSA programs that have been exposed are blatantly unconstitutional, and have a detrimental effect on free speech and freedom of press worldwide. … You can’t disregard people’s privacy, invade their personal lives on a daily basis, and not expect them to fight back.”

"Restore the Fourth" rally in New York City (Photo: Nicky Ocean)

The groups encourage Americans to call 1-STOP-323-NSA and urge members of Congress to demand a full investigation into NSA spying.

They’re also asking Americans to electronically sign a letter to Congress that states, “Stop watching us. The revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance apparatus, if true, represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights. We demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA’s spying programs.”

Union Square, New York City

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