MEDIA ROOTS — The shameless political minions of insidious U.S. plutocrats and oligarchs continue to push civil rights down the memory hole. The latest power grab by Washington elites is H.R. 347, also known as the “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011.” Furtively tucked away in this ordinary legislation lies a new tool for the ruling-class to further neutralize popular protest and political dissent.
The bill effectively outlaws the ability of U.S. citizens to protest near any politician or people who are under Secret Service protection. This means, for example, the President and Vice President of the United States are now effectively immune to public protest. The list of people provided with Secret Service protection is long and can arbitrarily grow under their discretion. H.R. 347 was signed by President Obama on March 8, 2012 and enacted soon thereafter.
This law continues the dismantling of First Amendment rights and largely gives police the prerogative to subjectively arrest any person that “impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions.” Furthermore, this political will to snuff out free speech also enables cops to detain any person who “engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct in, or within such proximity to, any restricted building or grounds….” In light of upcoming, headline-grabbing events like the NATO Summit in Chicago and the Republican National Convention in Tampa come August, it seems that this legislation has been premeditated and enacted in a very timely manner.
INFORMATION LIBERATION — Don’t you just love Congress, where almost no bills actually are what they say on the tin? There’s some buzz building online about the “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011″ (or HR 347), which has been positioned as a simple updating of trespassing laws concerning federal grounds. However, as some are pointing out, hidden in there is quite the Easter egg that effectively outlaws protests near people who are “authorized” to be protected by the Secret Service (mainly the President and Vice President, but it could include a lot more as well). Only three Representatives voted against it, including Rep. Justin Amash who explained his concerns via Facebook:
“Some government officials may need extraordinary protection to ensure their safety. But criminalizing legitimate First Amendment activity — even if that activity is annoying to those government officials — violates our rights. I voted “no.” It passed 388-3.”
You know all those stories we’ve had about people being arrested for filming police? Quite often those people are charged with disorderly conduct — which often seems to boil down to “that person did something law enforcement doesn’t like.” To then take that and say that anything that constitutes disorderly conduct on the grounds of a building where someone who is protected by the Secret Service is a crime, it appears to be wide open to abuse, and a pretty clear restriction on the free speech rights of anyone wishing to engage in normal and healthy protest of our political process.
On top of that, the punishment can be pretty severe. You can get up to a year in jail for being found guilty of these things, and that jumps up to 10 years if you are carrying a “deadly or dangerous weapon.”
As Amash notes, there are legitimate safety concerns to be aware of, and there are issues with doing something that significantly impedes government regulations. But it’s really not difficult to see how this bill could very, very easily be stretched to be used against those doing standard protesting against significant political figures.
Read more about Chipping Away At The First Amendment.
FRONT PORCH POLITICS — Just when you think the government can’t possibly violate the First Amendment anymore than they already have, they up and surprise you.
Last week the House of Representatives approved a bill that outlaws protests where some government officials are nearby. Oh, and by the way this applies whether you know the officials are there or not!
They voted 388-3 in favor of HR347. The bill is being referred to as the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act or as we’ll refer to it as it should be called, “The Treasonous Trampling of the First Amendment Rights of American Citizens Under the Constitution Act” (TTFARACCA).
Now hold onto your hats here folks because this bill does not just apply to protests where you are in Washington, DC on a tourist escapade or some such vacation where you wish to engage in peaceful protest as your [...] inalienable right. No, no my friends, this bill is written in such a way that [it] gives power to the government to bring charges against any American engaged in political protest anywhere in the country.
Currently, trespassers of the White House can be arrested and prosecuted under a local ordinance and obviously just as with any property such laws can and should be in place. However, to restrict peaceful protests simply because a government official might be within earshot of it is ridiculous. What is the point of protesting if the people you are protesting against don’t hear it?
Read more about Goodbye First Amendment Via New Trespass Bill.
Photo by Flickr user JBrazito