“For this event we coordinated with others in the area who were outraged at the government's response to the heroic whistleblowing of Edward Snowden,” said Chris Ernesto of St. Pete for Peace, the group which initiated the event. “It is the pattern of the government to quickly attack a whistleblower, so we felt we needed to match that immediacy and speak out. We chose Sen. Nelson's office because he vigorously defended the NSA spying program, spouting the tired cliche that spying is necessary for security purposes. Nelson also said Snowden should be prosecuted, but we believe it is Nelson who should be brought up on charges of being a traitor because he obviously is in contempt of the U.S. Constitution.”
In an editorial for the New York Daily News on June 12, Nelson referred to Snowden's actions as an “act of treason”.
Protestors held up signs plastered with the faces of Snowden and Bradley Manning, currently undergoing trial for allegedly passing classified material to Wikileaks in 2010. Chants included "Hey, hey, NSA is spying,
Obama is lying" and "Hey hey, ho ho, the NSA has got to go". The Tampa Light Brigade held up a sign comparing the tactics of the NSA to the Stasi of the German Democratic Republic. Cars driving by honked in approval.
“It's good to see all of these people together, especially considering that planning for this didn't begin until Tuesday,” said Rev. Bruce Wright of the Green Shadow Cabinet and the Poor People's Human Rights Campaign. “These types of protests start small, but they show the potential of what can be done.”
Police presence was minimal and mostly dedicated to keeping the sidewalk clear.
Currently no plans have been made for any follow up events.
“The plans following the protest will be determined,” said Ernesto, “but this is a pivotal moment for privacy of U.S. citizens and the Constitution, so the presumption is that we will continue to work to defend those who expose government wrongdoing.”
Brian Moore, Chair of the NatureCoast Coalition for Peace and Justice and Vice-chair of the Peace and Freedom Party of Florida, felt that future actions should be more aggressive, in order to bring more attention to the issue.
"The Rush hour timing was excellent, but of the mind that more aggressive actions should have been taken, like blocking the street. Carrying signs and chanting is fine, but not as effective as a more aggressive action, like blocking Senator Nelson's door, or blocking the federal government building door, or marching from one point to another with symbolic meaning, like AT&T offices to Federal government building. Something that would have prompted a police response, just bordering civil disobedience.Somehow the general public has be be drawn more into the mix. All of the participants yesterday were our typical full of passion left-leaning ideologues which are at all the anti-war events."
Just hours after the protest, the United States government filed espionage charges against Snowden. In a comment to Politico
, Nelson approved of the proceeding.
"Now that Snowden has been charged with espionage we'll continue to speak out and then wait to see what the response is," said Ernesto when contacted after the news broke. "If activists focus on this issue, and everyday Americans are bothered, this issue won't go away. But if people get distracted by the establishment's tactics, this could be an enormous loss for the future of this country."