Wednesday, February 29, 2012

First Amendment (1791-2012) R.I.P.

Lady Liberty, in her guise as the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and specifically "the right of the people peaceably to assemble," has been dragged to the gallows by the Senate, the rope placed around her neck by the House of Representatives, and awaits only the President's signature to drop into the abyss of history.

On February 6, the Senate passed S.358 by Unanimous Consent, moving it on to the House of Representatives, where it became H.R.347.1 On February 27, it passed the House by a vote of 388-3.

The only "no" votes were from Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Paul Broun (R-Ga.), and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.). Forty-two Representatives were absent for the vote.

The bill makes it a federal offense to enter a building or grounds without permission or with the intent to disrupt a government function if "the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting" or if said area is "restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance."

Shouting and/or waving signs of protest can easily be construed as disruptive conduct.

Protesters exercising their First Amendment rights could easily fall under the provisions of this law if an enforcement agent determines they intended to disrupt a government function, obstructed or impeded access to the event, or engaged in disruptive or disorderly conduct in or within proximity of the restricted location.

President Obama and other high-level members of all three branches of the federal government are under Secret Service protection. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are already protected by the Secret Service. Newt Gingrich has applied for protection. Only candidate Ron Paul has stated that he thinks he should foot the bill for his security, not the taxpayers. He has a security team that travels with him at his campaign's expense.

Also contained in a bill is the authorization for the President to order Secret Service protection for anyone by Presidential Memorandum, giving the President carte blanche to declare anyone off-limits to those wishing to express their displeasure of that person's actions through their right to free speech.

Events designated as "special events of national significance" over the last few years have included both Democratic and Republican National Conventions, Presidential Inaugurations, G-8, G-20 and NATO summits, World Trade Organization meetings, and even Super Bowls and Olympics.

So raise a glass to the demise of Lady Liberty in the guise of peaceful protest under the protection of the First Amendment. The drumroll has begun, and she awaits only the stroke of the President's pen to have her voice silenced forever.

...and that's all I have to say about that.
1
H.R.347 -- Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011 (Enrolled Bill [Final as Passed Both House and Senate] - ENR)

One Hundred Twelfth Congress
of the
United States of America

AT THE SECOND SESSION

Begun and held at the City of Washington on Tuesday,
the third day of January, two thousand and twelve

An Act
To 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
  • (a) Whoever--
    • (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) 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.
  • (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 or by Presidential memorandum, when such person has not declined such protection.'.

Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Vice President of the United States and
President of the Senate.

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