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US celebrates July 4 under tight security

NEW YORK: People across the US gathered yesterday for parades, picnics and fireworks at Independence Day celebrations, held under unprecedented security following the Boston Marathon bombings.

Spectators waving US flags and wearing red, white and blue headed for public gatherings in Boston, New York, Washington, Atlanta and other cities under the close watch of police armed with hand-held chemical detectors, radiation scanners and camera surveillance, precautions sparked by the deadly April 15 bombings.

A boy died after being run over by a float at the end of a Fourth of July parade in Edmond, Oklahoma.

Under steamy summer skies, tourists in New York flocked to ferries headed for the Statue of Liberty, which re-opened with an Independence Day ceremony after closing in October as Superstorm Sandy approached.

The storm swamped about 75 per cent of Liberty Island, the statue's home off the southern tip of Manhattan.

Others headed for Brooklyn's Coney Island to cheer on competitors in the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Amid controversy over revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA), some marked the nation's 237th birthday by demanding respect for its founding principles.

In Birmingham, Alabama, organisers held a "Restore the Fourth" protest - a reference to the US Constitution's Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures - to denounce NSA surveillance programmes.

Websites such as Reddit and Mozilla supported a campaign in cities across the US to "Restore the Fourth".

The home page of the website Boing Boing, for example, displayed the following message to the NSA: "Happy 4th of July! Immediately stop your unconstitutional spying on the world's Internet users - The People."

The NSA, on its own website, said: "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."

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has been charged with espionage after disclosing the agency's surveillance programmes. He has spent more than a week in a Moscow airport seeking a country that would grant him asylum. The online protest was launched by the Internet Defence League.



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