Amendment I – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
(MORAL LOW GROUND) President Obama has signed into law a bill that makes it a federal offense to protest wherever a person or event is under Secret Service protection, and there isn’t a singe story in the corporate mainstream media about it.
RT reports that the Orwellian-sounding Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011, or H.R. 347 in Congress-speak, criminalizes any action which would “impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct in, or within such proximity to, any restricted building or grounds when, or so that, such conduct, in fact, impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions,” as well as behavior which “obstructs or impedes ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds.”
H.R. 347, casually called the ‘trespass bill,’ makes it a crime to “knowingly” enter a restricted area under Secret Service protection. The law slightly amends earlier legislation that made it an offense to knowingly and willfully enter such areas. The omission of “willfully” makes it much easier to prosecute protesters who don’t realize that they entered into a Secret Service-protected zone, which is easy to do since the Secret Service doesn’t always advertise their presence.
The Secret Service protects not only President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden and their families, but also former presidents, visiting foreign dignitaries, presidential candidates and a host of other figures and events. Under the new law, peacefully protesting any of these is now a federal offense. Say goodbye to “glitter-bombing” activists, Code Pink interruptions, Occupy mic-checks and pro-Palestinian disruptions of visiting Israeli leaders’ speeches.
Of course, that’s probably why Obama is signing the law. This administration has arguably done more to eviscerate constitutional rights than any in living memory. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorized the indefinite military detention of American citizens without charge or trial. The contraception mandate trampled religious freedom. Attorney General Eric Holder last week announced that the administration has embraced the assassination of U.S. citizens without charge, trial or any form of due process. And now this.
One cannot help but think that this new law targets the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is gearing up for a year of massive protests. There’s the NATO summit in Chicago in May, followed by the Republican and Democratic national conventions in the summer, then the 2012 general elections. H.R. 347 must certainly meant to have a chilling effect on constitutionally-protected free speech and assembly rights.
Also troubling is the fact that the language of the bill is (intentionally?) vague, not defining what “impeding” or “disrupting” actually consists of. That could make it easier to prosecute anyone who the government decides to target.
The odious measure was first passed by the Senate and then by the House of Representatives, which voted 388-3in favor of it. The only House members to reject this alarming evisceration of the First Amendment were two Tea Party Republicans– Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan and Paul Broun of Georgia, and GOP presidential hopeful Ron Paul of Texas. Not one single Democrat voted “no.”
So, to recap: your government can now lock you up indefinitely without charge nor trial, assassinate you if it deems you to be a threat and arrest and imprison you for up to 10 years for exercising your constitutional rights.
God bless America.
Here is the full text of H.R. 347:
H. R. 347
To correct and simplify the drafting of section 1752 (relating to restricted buildings or grounds) of title 18, United States Code. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the `Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011′.
SEC. 2. RESTRICTED BUILDING OR GROUNDS.
Section 1752 of title 18, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:
Sec. 1752. Restricted building or grounds
(1) knowingly enters or remains in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so;
(2) knowingly, and with intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct in, or within such proximity to, any restricted building or grounds when, or so that, such conduct, in fact, impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions;
(3) knowingly, and with the intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, obstructs or impedes ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds; or
(4) knowingly engages in any act of physical violence against any person or property in any restricted building or grounds;
or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b).
(b) The punishment for a violation of subsection (a) is–
(1) a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than 10 years, or both, if–
(A) any person, during and in relation to the offense, uses or carries a deadly or dangerous weapon or firearm; or
(B) the offense results in significant bodily injury as defined by section 2118(e)(3); and
(2) a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both, in any other case.
(c) In this section–
(1) the term `restricted buildings or grounds’ means any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area–
(A) of the White House or its grounds, or the Vice President’s official residence or its grounds;
(B) of a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting; or
(C) of a building or grounds so restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance; and
(2) the term ‘other person protected by the Secret Service’ means any person whom the United States Secret Service is authorized to protect under section 3056 of this title when such person has not declined such protection.’