More than 20,000 protest in Berlin against surveillance
The Freiheit statt Angst (Freedom Not Fear) mass anti-surveillance rally took place in Berlin, Germany on 7 September 2013.
The event was organized by a broad civil coalition of over 80 NGO, associations and parties demanding an end to surveillance and a clear statement from the government on the surveillance scandal.
While the organizers expected more than 10 000 protesters, on 7 September 2013 more than 20 000 people were present in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz not just for the march, but also for the opening and closing rally.
“The demonstration is a huge success. There are four times as many of us as there were at the last demo in 2011! The citizens are going out onto the streets in defense of their fundamental rights and of democracy,” said padeluun of the Demo Alliance.
“Only a dictatorship needs censorship,” “Anonymity is not a crime,” or “Freedom of the press needs data protection” – in imaginative costumes, with creative banners and pithy slogans, the people in Berlin are protesting peacefully against the spying practices of the NSA, against the continued violation of their privacy, and against persistent inaction by the Merkel government.
Rena Tangens of the EDRi member Digitalcourage noted that “Surveillance is going on in Germany, too, and all citizens are affected. Online searches, data retention, stored-data information systems and the disproportionate use of cell dumps are just a few examples of anti-democratic control measures that need to be abolished.”
The other speakers of the closing rally struck a defiant note as well. Parker Higgins, an activist from the EDRi member Electronic Frontier Foundation (USA), voiced an urgent warning of the consequences of blanket surveillance for human dignity. “We need to take the system back — and to do that, we need an informed citizenry and we need to bring national policies back into line with international principles of human rights. I’m ashamed of what my country is doing in my name, but today I feel that I’m among my real people – people who believe in freedom and stand up against fear!”
Michael Rediske from Reporters Without Borders emphasized the threat to press freedom that has become an everyday reality with the surveillance and monitoring of journalists around the world via the Internet. “They’re arrested for blog posts or tweets, their e-mails are monitored, their contacts are investigated, their computers are infected with monitoring software.” He pointed out that the NSA scandal has now made it clear that even German journalists are being monitored as a matter of course. This surveillance not only threatens German freedoms, it also destroys Germany’s credibility as an ally. “We can’t do dictators the favor of becoming like them.”
“We could give Snowden asylum if only we wanted to,” said Christian Humborg of Transparency International. He cited Snowden’s response to receiving the Whistleblower Prize: “Governments must be accountable to us for the decisions that they make. Decisions regarding the kind of world we will live in. What kind of rights and freedoms individuals will enjoy are the domain of the public, not the government in the dark.”
The organizers even reported praise from the police due to the fact that the march proceeded completely peacefully and without any negative incidents.