On February 27, 2012, Congress passed H.R.347, also known as the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011.
That’s a nice name. It sounds like with its passage there should be lots of pretty flowers blooming all over Washington, DC this Spring.
Here’s what H.R.347 really does: it makes it illegal for anyone to protest in or near any government building or at any location that is deemed to be hosting an event designated as having national significance.
If that sounds a little vague and open to interpretation, that’s because it is. The “grayness” of this description is the loophole needed to circumvent the First Amendment rights of We the People.
Here are the relevant excerpts from the actual bill:
`(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;
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) the 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.
`(1) the term `restricted buildings or grounds’ means any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area–
`(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 or by Presidential memorandum, when such person has not declined such protection.’.
Under these guidelines, acts of civil disobedience, gathering for redress of grievances and who knows what else could be punishable for up to 10 years if any violence breaks out and up to 1 year if it doesn’t. Judging from the willingness of many police departments to administer full-on beat downs of unarmed, peaceful protesters, I’m going to wager that a charge of violence will be present even if it’s perpetrated by the police.
Why is an ill-worded, unnecessary law like this on the books? Why did it pass 388-3 in the House and with unanimous consent in the Senate? Could it be that Congress doesn’t want to know what lobbyist-free citizens have on their minds?
Something smells a little fishy here.