Most of the wars fought by the U.S. have had nothing to do with freeing the U.S. population from government oppression - in fact many of them have been for just the opposite reasons. Whenever the country's citizens were getting too uppity, the government would find another war - any war - to keep us in check with patriotic slogans and the like.
The main point of this post is that activists against the U.S. government and its various terror organizations are the people most responsible for maintaining and in some cases expanding the rights we have today. The women's rights movement, the civil rights movement, the workers rights movement, and many others.
You should know about the workers rights movement and the battle for the eight-hour work day. It was extremely violent and brutal, and occurred over decades. Men, women, and children - often U.S. citizens - were starved and beaten by the U.S. government and the large corporations that worked with the government to keep down the working class. The seminal event in the push for the either-hour work day was the Haymarket Riot, May 4, 1886.
The government manufactured a case against eight of the better-known anarchists in the crowd and sentenced seven of them to death. On November 10, the day before they were to be executed by hanging, one of them killed himself in his cell. Four others were hanged the next day. Three were eventually pardoned after serving about seven years in prison.
This is the power of mass popular movements. According to this page, some striking workers were able to gain some concessions immediately:
On 1st May, 1886 a strike was began throughout the United States in support a eight-hour day. Over the next few days over 340,000 men and women withdrew their labor. Over a quarter of these strikers were from Chicago and the employers were so shocked by this show of unity that 45,000 workers in the city were immediately granted a shorter workday.
All governments will continue to be the enemies of their own citizens.
The next time you get to go home from work after eight hours on the job - think about these activists who were killed, and the hundreds of thousands of activists brutalized and murdered before them who died so we could enjoy a slightly more civilized existence.
...updated with more explicit numbers instead of 'several'.