Today I attended a Restore the Fourth protest in Chicago. It was well attended, with about 250 mostly first-time protesters, and was put together by a small group of first-time organizers. This is about as grassroots as it gets.
The crowd had great energy and many creative signs. The protest demanded that the Fourth Amendment be restored. There was a lot of anger at the NSA, with many calling for it to be abolished entirely. Some chants included:
- The NSA / has TMI!
- The NSA / is not OK!
- Big Bro / has got to go!
- Free, free Snowden! Free Edward Snowden!
- Restore the Fourth
As we approached Millenium Park, we came across hundreds of people enjoying the sun in the park. Onlookers were by and large very sympathetic. I was jazzed to see a couple hundred people marching through a crowded area chanting against the NSA. I can only imagine how NSA employees feel right now.
For the most part, the protest was quite patriotic. It even ended with the crowd singing the Star-Spangled Banner. I did not participate, but the song did not annoy me the way it does when it’s played at a baseball game. There was something really genuine in how the demonstrators felt about their country and the principles they believe it was founded on, and their defiance in the face of what most of them realize is a usurping of democracy by elites was heartening.
We had a small incident where one young Mexican-American man was detained by a cop for writing on the sidewalk with chalk. About 15-20 of us stayed and chanted “Let him go!” and then a couple of the (white) organizers asked the cops to let him go, it wouldn’t happen again, etc. After running his ID, the two cops there did indeed let him go. I have no doubt that the balance of numbers helped convince them to do that.
The organizers did one thing I thought was a great idea: at the pavilion they asked to disperse, talk to people and hand out fliers, and then re-convene in 20 minutes, after which we marched to the endpoint and had a final speakout. In this way we managed to reach out to lots and lots of people.