Two people. Two hours. One hundred people reached. That’s how Christy Johnson and the Birmingham chapter pulled off a Constitution Day event on September 17th.
“Constitution Day was too good of an opportunity to pass up,” said Christy. “But it fell on a Tuesday, when we knew people would be at work.” So she and another volunteer set up shop during a long lunch hour at Linn Park, which sits between the Birmingham City Hall and the Jefferson County Courthouse, picking a time when the park is packed with lawyers and jurors and other citizens on government business.
“Our goal was to get in front of a lot of people and make it matter to them personally,” she said. They spread out, individually approaching people in the park, taking time to explain to each person how his own individual cell phone is accessed by the federal government, how the government is tracking every number he calls.
Christy told us that many people were unaware of the NSA surveillance and shocked by the idea of the government spying on them. “Only one person said he was fine with the surveillance, if it meant the nation was safer,” she said.
They handed out flyers outlining the Fourth Amendment and NSA issues along with pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution and American flags, wishing everyone a Happy Constitution Day.
“We have made it a large part of our mission to be educational,” Christy said. “We feel like if we can raise awareness and educate people, then people will connect the dots for themselves.”
The Birmingham group did not seek any sort of permits for the gathering and did not have any problems. When approached by a policeman, he only said he was glad to see people concerned about NSA surveillance. “It’s cool to know that even people in law enforcement feel the government has overstepped its bounds,” Christy remarked.
The Birmingham chapter is working hard to keep the NSA surveillance issue in the forefront of citizens’ minds in every way, from non-binding resolutions, to “papering” events, to meeting with a Congressman.
The chapter’s next step is to meet with Birmingham’s city council members to ask for a non-binding resolution condemning the use of drones for domestic surveillance. “It’s only a message. It’s non-binding, but at least the message will be sent,” she said. Christy has hopes the resolution will happen, even though, ironically, Alabama state leaders are working to recruit drone manufacturers to operate in the state.
Chapter members met with Congressman Spencer Bachus, a Republican representative for parts of the Birmingham area, to express their concerns. They were surprised when Bachus enthusiastically agreed with Restore the 4th’s message. Bachus was the only Alabama representative to vote for the failed Amash amendment in July.
Just as in Austin, the Birmingham march on July 4 encompassed a cross-section of Alabama folks *Tea Partiers marching with Occupiers, 60-year-olds alongside teenagers. “What makes this successful is our focus on a singular issue,” Christy said. “I really believe that’s what makes this bulletproof. We won’t be divided and conquered.”
Alongside the flyers on Constitution Day, Christy taped up a copy of the feisty Alabama state motto: “We Dare Defend Our Rights.”
“If anybody is gonna roll over and take it, it better not be Alabama!” Christy vowed.