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If Barack Obama is trying to completely erase the Bill of Rights
before
the November, 2012 Election, he is well on his way of ach-
ieving his objective. On March 15, 2012 Obama signed HR 347, the
Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011
into law. HR 347 unanimously passed in the House on a vote of
399 to 3. HR 347 was a modification of S.1794 which restricts people
from entering or blocking public areas which had been closed off by
the Secret Service while a person protected by the Secret Service is
in, or passing through that public building; or is otherwise disrupted
while under the protection of the Secret Service, extending the
original law making it a felony for any person to enter or remain in an
area when a protected individual is visiting—even if the person who
addresses or attempts to address the protected person does not
know that he or she is breaking the law.



Usually bills that violate the 1st Amendment are proffered by the social progressives. This bill, a knee-jerk reaction to Occupy DC, was introduced in the House by Tom Rooney [R-FL]. HR 347, printed below in it entirety, amends Section 1752 of Title 18, USC, originally enacted in 1971. Congressman Justin Amash [R-MI] explained the anti-trespass, anti-protest measure thusly: "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." The new section, in its entirety, reads:

§ 1752, Restricted buildings or grounds

(a) Whoever—
(1) (1) knowingly enters or remains in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so;
(2) (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) (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) (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 publishment for a violation of subsection (a) is—
(1) (1) a fine under this title or imprisonment for mot more than 10 years, or both, if—
(A) (A) (A) the person, during and in relation to the offense, uses or carries a deadly or dangerous weapon or firearm or
(A) (A) (B) the offense results in significant bodily injury as defined by section 2118(e)(3); and
(A) ((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) (1) the term "restricted buildings or grounds" means any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area—
(A) (A) (A) of the White House or its grounds, or the Vice President's official residence or its grounds;
(A) (A) (B) of a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting; or
(A) (A) (c) of a building or grounds so restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance; and
(2) (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 or by Presidential memorandum, when such person has not declined such protection.

It appears, once again—only this time in a measure initiated by Republicans—that Congress is shielding itself from the voters by denying the People their constitutional right to "redress their grievances" with government. The 1st Amendment specifically gives the People the right to "...petition the government for a redress of grievances" which suggests the federal court system is obligated to listen to accusations of what the People believe is wrongdoing by government, and rule on those accusations.

While Congress claims the changes are rather mundane, the reality is that the issue is is significant because Congress is tinkering with the 1st Amendment. And, as noted by the American Civil Liberties Union, Congress made it much easier for the Secret Service to misuse the statute.

According to Michael Mahaffey, Rooney's Communications Director, the protests against HR 347 "...are a whole lot of kerfuffle over nothing. This law doesn't affect anyone's right to protest anywhere at any time." He added that "...right now it's not a federal violation to jump the fence and run across the White House lawn [but] this bill makes it a federal violation." The reality is HR 347, combined with the language in the 1971 law, expands law enforcement's interpretative latitude. Because of the destructive protests of Occupy, this legislation was designed to give law enforcement officials broadened authority to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate protesters.

Any time you take an eraser to the 1st Amendment, you are making major adjustments to the rights of American citizens. What you don't see in the text (above) is what's written by the bureaucracy in their "huddle holes" after-the-fact, and becomes codified in 90 days if no one spots the subtle verbiage tweaks in the Congressional Record. What happens under HR 347 is that anyone under Secret Service protection is covered by this law anywhere—even on your front porch. Let's say a Congressman (accompanied by a Secret Service agent for protection) is knocking on doors in his District drumming up votes and, when he knocks on your door, you give him a piece of your mind—from the dark side. Because you are within earshot of the Secret Service detail, your house suddenly becomes protected pubic domain and you are suddenly facing up to ten years in prison for telling some social progressive twit what you think of him.

Or, let's say that Barack Obama decides to give his anti-oil EPA Director for Texas, Al Armendariz Secret Service protection so he can go to a Texas Rangers' baseball game without be harassed by fans. Because the Secret Service is protecting Armendariz, that very public Ranger Ballpark becomes a temporarily protected building. And a Texas Ranger fan who might be an unemployed oil well driller makes a nasty remark about watermelon environmentalists within the earshot of the Secret Service can legally be arrested. In other words, HR 347 makes it easier for the Secret Service to lawfully abuse the intent of Congress and arrest "protesters" for simply making a negative remark about Armendariz if it can be construed by the Secret Service as a veiled threat.

Even worse, taking the language of the original law into the equation, HR 347 creates "free speech zones" that may not be obvious to, say, an unemployed Gulf oil driller who recognizes EPA Regional Director Armendariz and a Secret Service escort sitting directly in front of them at a Texas Ranger ball game, and who makes a negative remark about Armendariz that is construed by the Secret Service agent to be either a threat or an unlawful protest. Although HR 347 (above) doesn't specifically address free speech zones, it must be viewed in the context of the law it amends which does.

The ACLU, which is fighting HR 347 on behalf of Occupy DC, is monitoring how it is interpreted and implemented by the Justice Department which will be more likely to prosecute Tea party advocates for violating the law than it will the Occupiers.

 

Just Say No
Copyright 2009 Jon Christian Ryter.
All rights reserved
.