As Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul staged a dramatic, rare speaking filibuster to protest President Barack Obama’s apparent belief that he has the constitutional authority to assassinate American citizens within the United States, citizens also began demanding a response from the White House though the administration’s online “We the People” petition website.
Paul yielded the Senate floor to a round of applause at approximately 12:39 a.m. EST on Thursday morning, ending his nearly-13 hour filibuster of the Senate’s confirmation vote of White House adviser John Brennan to be the director of the CIA.
A petition echoing Paul’s request, however, was started on the White House website late Wednesday evening, and rapidly gained traction.
“Mr. President,” the petition begins. “We the people request that you respond to Senator Rand Paul and the citizens of America on the issue of drone strikes on US soil with the potential to kill US citizens without a trial. … We request that you respect our freedoms and our rights as US citizens.”
“Mr. President, as our elected leader, you are accountable to the people and so we ask that you address this important issue”, it adds, signing off “respectfully” under the name “A Citizen of the United States of America.”
The petition gathered more than 1,300 signatures just hours after going live, and reached over 2,000 signatures by 1:30 a.m. on Thursday.
By the administration’s own rules, the White House is required to respond to petitions that cross a signature threshold of 100,000 signatures within 30 days.
Paul has repeatedly asserted that he is not opposed to the use of drones by the military or law enforcement. Instead, he said he wanted to receive a clear answer from the White House about whether President Obama believes that he has the authority to kill Americans on U.S. soil via a targeted drone strike without due process.
The White House, however, remained silent on the issue for the remainder of the evening.
As he neared the 12th hour of his time on the Senate floor, Paul said that his office had been in contact with the White House to discuss the issue, but that the White House was “done talking” for the day.
Senate Democrats also rejected Paul’s request for a vote on the issue Wednesday evening.
People tuned in live to the action through a broadcast on C-SPAN2’s website, and the event drew the attention of Twitter users around the world, causing the hashtag ‘#StandWithRand to trend worldwide on the social network. At one point, #StandWithRand was the leading conversation worldwide on Twitter.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz — one of several Republican senators who stood in support of Paul, including Sens. Mike Lee and Marco Rubio — even read tweets from the #StandWithRand conversation live on the Senate floor to encourage his colleague.
Update, 3:07 a.m.: The original story misidentified the hashtag supporters used to rally Rand Paul’s efforts. The error has been corrected.