After last year’s tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona that killed six people and wounded twelve others including Rep Gabrielle Giffords, Congress started work on a bill that would help protect politicians. With little fanfare, HR 347 was passed by the House and Senate and signed into law this week by President Barack Obama.
The official White House release stated that President Obama,
“Signed into law: H.R. 347, the ‘Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011,’ which makes it a federal crime to enter or remain knowingly in any restricted area of the White House, the vice president’s official residence, or their respective grounds without lawful authority.”
While this may sound fairly mundane, the actual language in the bill can be easily construed to override the First Amendment right of free speech in many situations.
Here is what the bill says,
“Whoever knowingly enters or remains in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so; 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; 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 knowingly engages in any act of physical violence against any person or property in any restricted building or grounds; attempts or conspires to do so, shall be punished.”
Some members of Congress saw the danger of the wording and voted against the bill. Among them was Rep Justin Amash (R-MI) who said,
“Current law makes it illegal to enter or remain in an area where certain government officials (more particularly, those with Secret Service protection) will be visiting temporarily if and only if the person knows it’s illegal to enter the restricted area but does so anyway. 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.”
Rutherford Institute president, John Whitehead responded to the HR 347 by writing,
“The bill’s language is so overly broad as to put an end to free speech, political protest and the right to peaceably assemble in all areas where government officials happen to be present.
“A person eating in a diner while a presidential candidate is trying to score political points with the locals could be arrested if government agents determine that he is acting ‘disorderly.’ Mind you, depending on who’s making the assessment, anything can be considered disorderly, including someone exercising his right to free speech by muttering to himself about a government official. And if that person happens to have a pocketknife or nail clippers in his possession (or any other innocuous item that could be interpreted by the police as ‘dangerous’), he could face up to 10 years in prison.
“Given that the Secret Service not only protects the president but all past sitting presidents, members of Congress, foreign dignitaries, presidential candidates, and anyone who the president determines needs protection, anywhere these officials happen to be becomes a zone where the First Amendment is effectively off-limits.”
“While the Trespass Bill may have started out with the best of intentions, it has ended up as the government’s declaration of zero tolerance for individuals exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Sounds to me as just another expected step toward a Marxist government where no citizen has a right to say or do anything against the government and its politicians. The old Soviet Union did it. China and Syria are still doing it and the Socialist States of America will soon be doing it.
America is no longer the land of free as we aren’t free to do very much anymore without it being illegal or offensive to someone else. At the current rate of America’s decline and loss of freedoms, it’s probably time to scrape the Statue of Liberty and sell it for the copper.