Restore the Fourth Rally – San Francisco, July 4, 2013

If nothing else, the nationwide “Restore the Fourth” rallies on July 4 caused a resurgence in interest in the 4th amendment as measured by internet searches for “Fourth Amendment.”` See this graph, which shows that according to Google Trends, in late June interest in the Fourth Amendment had fallen to less than 20% of what it had been when the surveillance issue first broke, but went back up to 80% on July 4.

Of course a more conventional way to measure impact is by media presence. There was quite a lot of mostly respectful coverage, especially in local news outlets, and especially considering that the typical turnout was 100 people, not 1000. I give links to a sampling @ comment #63 here, and RT4 itself gives a more extensive set of links here (with yet a few more in the comments). For example, in a quite extensive article the Cedar Rapids Gazette says:

As Iowans celebrated the Fourth of July on Thursday, local and national groups gathered to pay respect to a different kind of “Fourth” – the Fourth Amendment.

Roughly 35 protesters gathered at Cleveland Park in Cedar Rapids on Thursday to make signs and organize. At noon, the group marched over four miles through downtown, hoisting their signs and cheering to honking cars, before stopping at Greene Square Park for a several-hour rally.

[An organizer] said today’s rallies are just the “launching event” for the movement in Iowa. He said they will continue to organize, and hope to be involved in a potential “Million Man March to Washington, D.C.” in the future.

Now that’s what I’d call capturing the enthusiasm. And in general it is clear that many, many USians heard about the events.

But what now?

Here is what the leaders of the RT4 organization itself say they are doing:

- Planning, coordinating, and promoting future nationwide protests like those on July 4th.

- Planning, coordinating, and promoting a massive one-city protest in Washington D.C.

- Phone call, petitioning, and letter-writing campaigns directed towards both Congress and state governments.

- Exploring more local spheres of influence such as town hall meetings.

- Political lobbying in defense of the 4th Amendment.

- Legal action in defense of the 4th Amendment.

These certainly sound like worthy activities. Some might think the effort should be broadened to include, say. a campaign to get General Least Untruthful prosecuted for perjury, or a demand that the US apologize for interfering with the Bolivian President’s travel. However, the organizers would object that such issues would narrow the appeal of the group’s efforts, and they would be right.

That said, if RT4 is going to lead the national movement against the surveillance state (and that is what it looks like), progressives are going to ask some questions centering around the political/ideological orientations of the leaders. I know the local coordinator for DC, but at the national level, apart from the media coordinator Douglas MacArthur (a name which itself sounds staged), as far as I have seen they are only known by the terms contained in their internet addresses.

In this connection I worry a bit about two particular organizations. The first is the Libertarian Party. It actively used at least the DC rally as a recruiting tool, with people passing out literature and one speaker urging us to vote for it. (And it will have been fertile territory: The typical rally-goer looked to be a millennial working at an internet start-up who is naturally concerned about online privacy but who has never even met an African-American single mother who works two jobs to feed her children and is worried about losing her food stamp benefit.)

I think Progressives should certainly work with Libertarians on common areas of interest, as long as the activities are not controlled by the latter. Any of the former who have time to attend planning meetings (which does not include me) should demand that speeches at future events refrain from appeal to narrow sectarian interests.

The other organization that concerns me is a group called Get FISA Right. Its website openly states that it began as a group of Obama supporters in 2008, and contains nothing to suggest recognition that he has since become part of the problem. It seems connected to the Montgomery County (Maryland) Civil Rights Coalition (whose representative spoke at the DC event), since its account of the day is taken from the latter’s blog.

People can disagree on whether the goal is to reform FISA or abolish it. However, we should not tolerate any Van Jones-style effort to contain the movement against the surveillance state within the Democratic party, like what happened at the national rally against the Keystone Pipeline in Washington in February, where Green party members were not allowed to speak on an issue where they had surely been prominent.

But I only wanted to mention these points as a caution. The DC rally also had Code Pink and the Institute for Policy Studies, who will be co-opted by neither the Libertarians nor the Democrats. Let us look forward to a productive movement against the destruction of the Fourth Amendment.

I’ll leave you with the contribution of WaPo’s Sunday humorist Gene Weingarten, “Give me a good treason.”

Photo by Dave Maass under Creative Commons license