Tampa activists protest NSA surveillance program at office of Senator Nelson

06/24/13 Naveen Sultan
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On Friday more than 30 protesters marched around the federal courthouse, in support of NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden. They voiced their anger towards Senator Bill Nelson who recently accused Snowden of committing treason by leaking top secret security information to the public. They chanted and held up signs demanding the government to stop spying on American citizens.

Chris Ernesto, is an organizer with St. Pete for Peace. He says the protest represents the voice of the American people who want government to respect the constitution by making sure the 4th amendment is protected. Ernesto said that Senator Nelson's traitor accusation is incorrect and the senator should change his position on this matter.

"He's need to instead of being a partisan Democrat and defending his president's program, he needs to stand up for the America people because that's the vow that he took to the United States constitution. He didn't take a vow to his party and if he has any credibility at all then he needs to stand up and say that Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning are heroes and he will not stand by as the 4th Amendment gets trampled upon."

Ernesto says the protesters feel that whistle blowers are the watchdogs of the government and help expose their abuses to the public. He says they support all people who have the courage to tell the truth.

"Edward Snowden is a hero just like Bradley Manning, and Daniel Ellsberg and all the people who put their careers and lives in jeopardy by revealing what they can no longer live with and that is the dirty deeds of the United States government. After September 11 the government said if you see something say something and that’s exactly what Edward Snowden has done - the problem is that when you see something or say something that makes the government look bad they turn you into the villain."

Protester James Lamont is a British student that attends St. Pete College. He says that even though he doesn’t believe President Obama’s assurance that Americans are not being spied on, the threat this program poses to non-Americans is even more disturbing.

"I know that speaking as a foreigner I don't get much comfort when I hear people saying well you know it's okay to spy on foreigners but not Americans. I don’t really see what the distinction should be. If the other 190-odd countries of the world were found spying on US citizens I don't imagine most Americans would find that comforting. Everyone in the world has a right not to be spied on to this extent."

The St. Petersburg chapter of Veterans for Peace were also at the rally. The President Don Mckeating said protesting for American privacy is a patriotic and moral obligation to him. He says as a veteran he took an oath to support the constitution and he sees a great danger with the NSA surveillance program.

"What's chilling to me is that people were ten years old in 9/11 and 2001 are of voting age now and they have no basis of comparison to what things were like before the patriot act and before these intrusions by government on our civil liberties which are gaining momentum and getting worse all the time and I’m sorry to say President Obama doesn’t seem to be doing anything to remedy this. He seems to be using every tool he inherited from President Bush and enhancing it."

Mckeating says the protesters are inspired by Benjamin Franklin's quote that those who sacrifice privacy for security deserve neither.

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