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Coinciding with the SOPA Blackout date, in which encyclopedia giant Wikipedia blacked out its webpage, the NY and NJ Tech groups met up in Midtown Manhattan to peacefully protest against SOPA and PIPA.
Held at the small plaza at the door step of Senator’s Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand, several hundred members of New York City’s thriving technology community arrived to show support against the passing of SOPA, PIPA and to encourage Occupy Wall Street sentiments.
The Meetup, which lasted a little more than an hour, was held despite cold windy weather community leaders as well as executives from Reddit and Tumblr were on hand to speak out against this outrage. Billed as the death of creativity and the end of the internet as the modern world knows it, members of the Meetup are saying the ambiguous nature of the PIPA and SOPA acts leaves plenty of loopholes for governments to over extend their jurisdiction over the content that Domestic U.S citizens see.
Despite a somewhat slow build up of people at the beginning, the Meetup was in full swing with protesters inside and outside the cordoned area’s of 780 Third Avenue. The NYPD were on hand to keep the peace as well as clear the walkways despite the large amount of people who filled the sidewalks.
People from all over the tri-state area arrived to find that the police parade barricades did not help contain all of the protesters and some people needed to stand away from the demonstration itself. As opposed to Occupy Wall Street, which had a starting march that arrived to the protesting location, the NY Tech Meetup today was designated to start and finish in one location. Protesters brought homemade signs and, despite chilly temperatures, held them up proudly for the entire time of the protest itself.
Protesters stood in front of the restaurants, on street furniture and in large crowds to hear the words of the speakers that would confirm their hopes and fears. Early on in the meeting, it was plainly put by Andrew Rasiej, chairman of New York Tech Meetup and protest leader, that as a group they opposed any and all kinds of piracy, but that the government was misguided in their attempts to end internet piracy.
His fears were expressed in his plea of words to congress regarding free speech and the end of innovation. Among speakers attending was Executive Vice President Andrew Mclaughlin of Tumblr, who was one of the designated speakers of the event. He was quite vocal about the power of the internet which is certainly no surprise given the meteoric rise of Tumblr in the last few years. Mclaughlin went on to say this to protesters:
“The internet works because it’s a democracy, the internet works because its voluntary people working together to make the internet flow.” He went on to say that the internet and the New York Tech scene in particular is a vital part of our economy, providing jobs and empowering people all over the world.
Similar sentiments were echoed by other speakers expressing the rise of entrepreneurship due to the internet as a valuable reason not to pass SOPA and PIPA. Another one of these notable speakers is co-founder of Reddit.com, Alexis Ohanian. He passionately decried the passing of these acts, saying:
“We are here fighting the wholesale destruction of one of the healthiest parts of America’s economy.”
He went on to ask the crowd, most of who was working in the tech industry today, which of their current companies was still hiring. By a large scale, almost everyone attending the Meetup raised their hands, giving credence to Ohanian’s belief that SOPA and PIPA would further stagger the American economy.
Ohanian also lamented the U.S governments’ loss of focus, citing more serious issues such as the budget deficit and unemployment as a better use of the currently allotted resources for the SOPA and PIPA funding. Though not in attendance, there was mention of several senators and political figures who are currently against the passing of SOPA and PIPA.
Chief among them is Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas and Republican Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas. With arriving support from Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Republican Representative Lee Terry of Nebraska and Republican Representative Ben Quayle of Arizona support seems to finally be swinging in favor of the Tech Industry and the NY Tech Protesters.
Despite varying proposals for how to better reshape the SOPA and PIPA acts, there remains a firm interest from the MPAA and RIAA to continually convince Congress to keep things in favor of the entertainment industry. In the face of such odds, the protesters at this NY Tech Meetup have hope that SOPA and PIPA will not pass.
There is a faith in democracy that remains unshakable and as sure as there are people working in the Tech Industry, there will be voices challenging the wisdom of bills such as SOPA and PIPA.
Image Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/phillipstearns/