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BLUFFDALE — More than 100 people gathered Thursday at Utah Veterans Memorial Park to support the cause of Restore the Fourth, a national group demanding an end to what its members say is unconstitutional government surveillance.
Dan Garfield, a Saratoga Springs resident and Restore the Fourth supporter, said he believes the rally for Fourth Amendment rights was fitting for the Fourth of July because veterans have fought and died to maintain American rights.
"We feel like the government has overstepped its bounds and gone contrary to what the Fourth Amendment stands for," he said.
Garfield said the rally was initially intended to take place near the access road of the new Utah Data Center, the 1 million-square-foot, $1.2 billion facility scheduled to open this fall at Camp Williams. The data center is overseen by the National Security Agency, which issued a statement saying the facility will "strengthen and protect the nation's cyber-security."
The Fourth Amendment guards against "unreasonable searches and seizures." Concluding what is reasonable is at the center of the national debate over the NSA's data seizure and analysis.
Protestors used the Restore the Fourth rally as an opportunity to voice their concerns over NSA surveillance. Those who spoke about their concerns and the threats they believed NSA data-gathering poses to Americans' rights to privacy were met with cheers and applause from the crowd.
"By giving (government officials) the ability to listen to everything that’s said in the world, we give them an enormous amount of power," Garfield said. "And as we know, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
"Even if you believe what the president is saying, where there’s not abuse and that never happens, you can’t really guarantee there’s not going to be an abuse next year, two years down the road, or five years down the road," he said.
Garfield said the Restore the Fourth rally moved to Utah Veterans Memorial Park because government officials ordered them away from the Utah Data Center's access road gates.
"We let them know beforehand that we were having a peaceful gathering," Garfield said. "But they wouldn’t have it."
According to the group's website, the Restore the Fourth movement endorses three main demands: to make clear that blanket surveillance of U.S citizens' Internet activity and phone records is prohibited by law; to create a special committee to investigate, report and reveal to the public the extent of domestic spying and create recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance; and to hold accountable the public officials found to be responsible for unconstitutional surveillance.
Salt Lake City resident Macey Booth said now that the movement has solidified and created concrete goals to work toward, it has “nowhere to go but up.”
An earlier rally against the NSA data gathering took place at the steps of the Utah Capitol on June 12.
Booth said the rally at the Capitol was small but passionate.
"We learned a lot," she said. "People came, they learned, and those people came back. They’re here today.
"But the only way we’re going to accomplish what we came here to accomplish is if (we) continue to educate ourselves, and when we come to the protest to focus on those three things in order to gain the attention from the government that we want. We want our voices heard,” Booth said.
The NSA issued a statement on the protests Thursday, saying, "NSA does not object to any lawful, peaceful protest. NSA and its employees work diligently and lawfully every day, around the clock, to protect the nation and its people."