Restore the Phones: Tell Congress This Isn’t Over (and a look at future activities)

On July 4th, tens of thousands of you came out to protest unconstitutional surveillance methods. There are many more protests and other actions upcoming (a bit more on that below), but as we’ve said many times, the next step is to let those in Washington who noticed us know this isn’t over.

The way to do that is for all of us, including those who have already, to call our representatives and senators Friday to tell them it isn’t over, and to make sure each of our friends do the same. One number you can use is 1-STOP-323-NSA (1-786-732-3672) – make sure you have your zip code ready. Those of us on Facebook can join the event page and make sure those on our friends list take notice of it.

You may be thinking: Why make a day-specific campaign out of calling Congress when it’s been recommended all along? Concentrating calls from as many people as possible in one day will draw more attention from Congress and others than if those calls were more spread out. Additionally, it: will serve as a reminder to those who haven’t called Congress yet; makes it easier to spread the message on social media and other venues; and will help keep attention on Restore the Fourth and on the issue of unconstitutional surveillance while we prepare for future protests and other action.

Tips for Friday

  • Call using which will help you connect to the right office and provide talking points, and look up your local representative’s position on unconstituional surveillance beforehand. Or consider using this script.
  • Read up on the issues (e.g. in our FAQ and Press Releases and other sites’ guides) beforehand so you know what to say, and so that you can address friends that question you on why they should participate.
  • Considering sending a letter and email as well. There are some templates on our Resources Pages which you can use if necessary, and can edit at your own discretion.
  • On Friday afternoon ask your friends if they remembered to call. Many people will be willing to do it but will need a last-minute reminder.

And this isn’t all that’s being worked on.

Note on Restore the Fourth’s Future Activities

Our last blog post laid out some of the projects the national and local organizers are discussing, including the one described above, so let’s look at the others. While we put “political lobbying” and “legal action” as projects on our radar – and it’s conceivable we’ll find that to be a worthwhile project at some point – these aren’t things Restore the Fourth will be working on in the coming months. We aren’t prepared or funded for that level of action and it’s best left to organizations like the ACLU and EFF. What we need to put on the agenda are the kind of low-cost, grassroots efforts to fight unconstitutional surveillance that we’re best at, like those from the 4th. Here’s two that are most likely going to happen:

  • Another set of local protests on August 4th, a few of which are already being planned by local organizers, using the 4th of the month as the go-to date for protests. August 4th’s can also be a send off for…
  • A campaign to get Restore the Fourth participants and other critics of unconstitutional surveillance out to town hall meetings during Congress’s summer recess. From August 5th to September 6th, members of Congress will be back home listening to constituents with the media present, and if we want to make it really clear this isn’t over, we need to make unconstitutional surveillance the center of that discussion and the main thing on lawmakers’ mind when they go back to D.C.

We hope you’ll participate in both and that you’ll remember to call Congress on Friday to tell them unconstitutional surveillance is unacceptable and that this isn’t over!

What you accomplished on the 4th of July, and where we go from here

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On July 4th 2013, tens of thousands of you from over 50 cities across the United States came out to protest unconstitutional surveillance. What began as online discussions between anonymous strangers over the Internet became in less than a month a coordinated nationwide movement that turned the heads of the American people and their government alike.

But while a great number of people have called these protests a success, they are correct only if we use these protests as a launching pad for further action. Unconstitutional surveillance methods like the NSA’s PRISM are still operating after the protests, as we knew they would be. We took a successful first step towards ending them, but now we must take the next one, which starts with studying the results of our work on the 4th so that we can capitalize on its successes and learn from its shortcomings.

On Turnout

We were pleased to find that approximately 20 000 protesters participated nationally and many cities (e.g. Boston, D.C., New York, San Francisco) reached close to 1000 – NYC, for instace, estimated 930-960. City-to-city, turnout varied from great to moderate to small. And it all made for some great photography.

The numbers might have and should have been larger, but any cynicism about the results would be misplaced. Most attempted protest movements fail to ever get tens of thousands of people, and most protest movements don’t start out as large as they eventually become. And so we will make this one larger, and staging our first set of protests on Thursday helped us do that.

Saying “Mission Accomplished” and moving onto other things would be silly and naive, because PRISM and other unconstitutional surveillance programs still exist. What we accomplished was bringing a significant amount of extra attention to this scandal and to our cause, and put together a great amount of experience, resources, and contacts for future work so that we can bring even more attention to unconstitutional surveillance and eventually end it. Even the smallest protests brought local media attention to this issue.

Media Impact

Your protests this week brought major local, national, and international media attention to our movement and, more importantly, to the issue of the Fourth Amendment and the unconstitutional surveillance that violates it.

According to analytics ordered for us by reddit GM Erik Martin, Restore the Fourth was referenced eight times Thurdsay on major national TV and radio stations (Bloomberg Radio, The Call, CNBC World, CNN, CNN International, and Fox News; and NPR twice) and 259 times on local TV and radio stations.

The print and online publications that ran one or more articles on us inlude BBC, The Boston Globe, CBC, CBS, Cnet, CNN, Fox News, The Gazette, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, International Business Times, LA Times, Mashable, Politico, Reuters, Time, The Times of India, RT, SF Gate, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Yahoo News, and Wikinews.

Other advocacy organizations that supported us with assistance or promotion or both include EFF, Fight for the Future, Internet Defense League, various Occupy Wall Street organizations (like these folks), PANDA, and (Surely I forgot some, so please email me to add you if I did). Politicians and celebrities that spoke out in suport include Rand Paul, Gary Johnson, Thomas Drake, and John Cusack. Support came from the left as well as the right as well as from every other direction and that is exactly what we wanted. Even the NSA itself found it suitable to take some notice and gave some support… for our first amendment rights. It’s a start?

According to Google Trends, by late June news and search traffic for “Fourth Amendment” had declined to less than 20% of what it had been when the NSA/PRISM scandal first broke, but shot up to more than 80% on the 4th, most likely largely because of our protests.

What all this means is that we succeded, at least temporarily, in preventing the media cycle and the attention of the American people from moving away from the Fourth Amendment and the violations of it that were revealed a month ago. This is a critical first step, because the country’s citizens can’t take action to stop a scandal they’ve forgotten about, and we have established our movement with a cultural presence and larger base of support that we can build off of. We’ve made real progress, and that’s something all of our participants should be really excited about, and proud of. But now we have to capitalize on that progress.

What comes next?

Restore the Fourth is a grassroots movement, and how we move forward is largely to be determined by what the various independent local organizers that conducted these protests want to do. So long as their work remains non-partisan, non-violent, and focused on ending unconstitutional surveillance, we will make it our job to provide them with the promotion and resources they need. Some are already beginning to plan their next event. Here are some of the interesting ideas for future projects that have been brought up by ourselves, local organizers, or the community:

– 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.

And here is some of what the Restore the Fourth national organization is spending the weekend doing:

– Working on bringing local organizers the level of direct involvement they should have had with the national organization a long time ago, and communicating with them about what we did right, what we did wrong, and what we should do next.

– Preparing additional information about who we are and how we function, for the benefit of both the public and our local organizers; much of this will be put on the website in stages in the coming days.

– Following up on all the talented people that offered to help us over the last week whom we didn’t have time to give the attention they deserved.

– Keeping up contact with with social media communities in order to receive additional ideas and feedback on how to move forward.

– Preparing a press release to be issued Monday morning.

– Researching how we can become – and raising funds to become – a permanent, ongoing organization dedicated to defending the 4th amendment and America from unconstitutional surveillance.

Becoming such an organization is going to require at least a modest level of funding, which we’re more than half way finished raising. So if you want to see such an organization be formed, please check out the indiegogo and consider helping out. I think the campaign lays out a pretty good case that we will use the funding effectively. Tell us what you think.

More information on the projects to be pursued throughout the summer will be made available over the upcoming week as we conference with local organizers. If you’re interested in volunteering either locally or nationally or both, please email with the relevant info and we will set you up.

Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to our efforts so far. Please keep in touch and keep involved, because this isn’t over.