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'Restore the Fourth' Rallies Against NSA Surveillance in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - 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.

The Restore the Fourth rallies, including one in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, aimed to bring awareness to recent reports of NSA surveillance and promote a positive message about the value of liberty and 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.

"The Fourth is obviously a very symbolic day, and in light of recent events, it's important for Americans to stand up and not just celebrate their past, but be able to fight for a future that's worth celebrating," said protester and local organizer Alex Turner. "...Any surveillance that occurs should not only have just cause but also be very particular, as described in the Fourth Amendment."

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution reads: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Protesters in Cedar Rapids created signs ranging from "The Constitution is not a choice" and "Read my lips, not my email" to "Edward Snowden: Hero" and "Preserve My Future Freedom" in the hands of a small child in a stroller.

UI graduate student Jonathan Trueblood, the organizer for the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Restore the Fourth chapter, said he was "appalled" by the original reports of NSA surveillance leaked by Edward Snowden.

After finding the Restore the Fourth movement online, he started promoting it locally and organizing the rallies.

Their main goals include spurring the government to reform the U.S. Patriot Act, take a federal stance against violations of security and privacy, hold government surveillance programs accountable, and remove James Clapper as Director of National Intelligence.

Before embarking on their march, Trueblood iterated their goals over a loudspeaker and emphasized that the demonstration was peaceful, non-confrontational, and not affiliated with a political party. Protesters applauded as Turner took the speaker and rallied them to begin the march, "We all know the NSA is listening, let's give them something to listen to today!"

Participant and UI graduate student Ilya Gurevic said he hopes the demonstrations caught the eye of Fourth of July celebrants and raised awareness.

"This matter should be in their field of view and in their horizon. No matter what opinion they have, they have to consider what this could mean," he said.

The rally in Greene Square Park following the march included encouraging passersby to call lawmakers. In Iowa City, dozens of protesters gathered on the Ped Mall to demonstrate.

Trueblood 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.

"Even if you're not doing anything wrong, you still have a right to privacy," he said. "...It's not about hiding things. It's that [surveillance] suppresses individuality, creativity, all the things needed to move forward in society. The things that have allowed America to be as awesome as it is."

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