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Two people were arrested during anti-NSA protests in Denver Thursday. (Credit: DawnPaladin via Google+)
Two people were arrested during anti-NSA protests in Denver Thursday. (Credit: DawnPaladin via Google+)

DENVER — Anti-NSA protesters took to the streets in cities across the United States on Thursday, using the Independence Day holiday to call attention to recent disclosures about the U.S. government’s telephone and Internet surveillance programs.

Protesters in Denver marched from the state Capitol to the 16th Street Mall. Two people were arrested after a confrontation with police near the capitol, the Denver Post reported.

Shortly after 2 p.m., anti-surveillance groups tweeted that Denver police were using pepper spray and batons, but those claims could not immediately be confirmed.

The movement, called “Restore the Fourth,” says the government programs such as Prism violate the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures without warrants. Specifically, it wants the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs shut down.

“It’s important that we speak up and let our elected officials know that our rights are being violated,” said Kyle Smeallie, a protester in San Francisco.

Online, popular websites such as Reddit showed support for the protesters by embedding Restore the Fourth images emblazoned with a hashtag.

The grassroots, nonpartisan movement started a month ago when a group of people met on Reddit and decided to take action.

“It is something a lot of people care about. We’re trying to get that narrative out there,” said Sam Oslos, 23, one of the protest organizers.

In the month following Edward Snowden’s leaks about U.S. government programs collecting information from phone and Internet companies, some U.S. citizens seemed unsurprised and resigned to being monitored. In the survey, 56% thought the collection of telephone metadata is acceptable, according to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center last month.

The loosely coordinated group helped organize protests in more than 80 U.S. cities using online message boards and Twitter. There were demonstrations in New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Chicago and Los Angeles. In Utah, protesters gathered near the new $1.5 billion NSA data center, which is scheduled to open later this year.

The movement even spread overseas, where protesters showed up in front of the U.S. Consulate in Munich, Germany, donning Edward Snowden masks.

In San Francisco, protesters walked from City Hall to the Embarcadero with signs that read “Legalize the U.S. Constitution” and “I refuse to sacrifice my liberty for security” while chanting. Police estimated there were at least 250 people protesting, but said the group was growing larger throughout the day.

“The Fourth Amendment is there to protect us, but there comes a time when we have to step in and protect it,” Parker Higgins, an activist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said to the crowd. He later told that getting people on the street was a way to let officials know that there are people who care about their privacy.

Dawn Ligiter was at the San Francisco protests with her husband and two dogs.

“We’re expecting our first child and we want him to have the same rights under the constitution that we grew up with,” she said.

— KDVR staff contributed to this report

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