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.
The Constitution of the United States of America
September 17, 1787
Bye, bye Bill of Rights.
In a shocking move clearly aimed at stifling constitutionally-protected free speech and assembly, the House of Representatives has passed an odious bill that makes it a federal offense to protest any event or function where anyone present is under Secret Service protection. And the mainstream media hasn’t bothered to cover the story at all.
According to Infowars.com, H.R. 347, the Orwellian-named ‘Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011,’ was passed by a vote of 388-3. The only members of Congress 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. Rep. Amash explained his dissenting vote:
“The bill expands current law to make it a crime to enter or remain in an area where an official is visiting even if the person does not know it’s illegal to be in that area and has no reason to suspect it’s illegal. 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.”
H.R. 347 makes it a prosecutable crime to enter
“(1) the White House or its grounds or the Vice President’s official residence or its grounds, (2) a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting, or (3) a building or grounds so restricted due to a special event of national significance.”
Furthermore, the bill makes it a federal offense “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,” and criminalizes anyone who “obstructs or impedes ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds.”
The bill empowers the government to prosecute anyone who protests any event where Secret Service officials are present. That means it would be illegal to protest any event where President Obama is present, or any event at which any of the presidential candidates who are under Secret Service protection are present. Those who demonstrate against Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney would be committing a crime. Same goes for ex-presidents, who are eligible for lifetime Secret Service protection. If President Obama signs the bill into law, you can forget protesting the NATO summit in Chicago. Visiting foreign dignitaries, who often have Secret Service escorts, are also covered by the bill. And with the Republican and Democratic National Conventions fast approaching, not to mention the 2012 general elections, H.R. 347 could prove to be a devastating weapon in the government’s arsenal against dissent.
According to Salon.com, there’s actually not much new in H.R. 347, save for the fact that the law used to say that the person entering a First Amendment-restricted area must have entered the area “knowingly” and “willfully.” H.R. 347 does away with the “willfully,” meaning that it is now a federal offense to remain in a First Amendment-restricted area even if you don’t know you’re in one or that it’s illegal to be there.
All that remains for H.R. 347 to become the law of the land is for the President to sign it, as the Senate has already approved it. Obama hasn’t said much about the measure, but what’s his word worth anyway? He did, after all, threaten to veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorized the indefinite military detention of anyone– including American citizens– suspected of involvement in terrorism without charge or trial, but then signed it anyway, essentially suspending habeas corpus.
This has been a very, very bad year for civil liberties in America. On New Year’s Eve, when hardly anyone was paying attention, Obama signed the NDAA. Next came what many perceive as an attack on constitutionally-protected religious liberty with Obama’s contraception mandate. Earlier this week, Attorney General Eric Holder declared that it was now perfectly fine for our government to kill American citizens without due process if they’re thought to pose a threat to national security.
And now this. The United States is gradually acting less and less like a democracy and more and more like a totalitarian state. Before you roll your eyes, consider this: the Soviet constitution guaranteed freedom of speech, assembly, protest and more. Yet the people of the U.S.S.R. were never able to exercise those rights. Indeed, doing so would have resulted in a one-way ticket to a Siberian gulag. Here today, in the supposedly freest nation on earth, our leaders are criminalizing the very activities that form the foundation of any free society. Freedom of speech, assembly and religion are the very first rights guaranteed by our constitution. Yet all of them– and others– have come under increasing attack. Regardless of the party in power, our (mis)leaders seem hell-bent on rolling back the rights that have made ours a nation whose laws and founding documents were once the envy of the world. And sadly, despite the fact that freedom of the press is one of those rights that has remained relatively unscathed, the mainstream U.S. media has been shamefully silent in the face of this travesty.
Here is the full text of H.R. 347:
112th CONGRESS1st SessionH. R. 347
AN ACTTo 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.’.
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