Update: Obama signed H.R. 347 into law last week.
Our right to assemble and speak freely in protest of the government is under serious threat this week.
Last Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted nearly unanimously (388-3) in favor of H.R. 347, the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011, which could impose federal criminal charges, including prison time, against people who participate in protests at locations protected by the Secret Service or identified as being of “national significance” by the Department of Homeland Security.
I was shocked when I found out about this wide reaching, frightening bill, and even more shocked by how little attention it’s getting. We definitely can’t let this one pass under the radar. Please call on President Obama today to veto a bill that threatens our free speech and tears at the fabric of our democracy.
It is no exaggeration to say that this bill would hinder protests like the recent Keystone XL demonstrations at the White House and recent Occupy protests at federal buildings. Would it discourage you to attend a protest if you knew you could face federal criminal charges just by being there?
As rt.com explains:
Outside of the current presidential race, the Secret Service is responsible for guarding an array of politicians, even those from outside America. George W Bush is granted protection until ten years after his administration ended, or 2019, and every living president before him is eligible for life-time, federally funded coverage. Visiting heads of state are extended an offer too, and the events sanctioned as those of national significance — a decision that is left up to the US Department of Homeland Security — extends to more than the obvious. While presidential inaugurations and meeting of foreign dignitaries are awarded the title, nearly three dozen events in all have been considered a National Special Security Event (NSSE) since the term was created under President Clinton. Among past events on the DHS-sanctioned NSSE list are Super Bowl XXXVI, the funerals of Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, most State of the Union addresses and the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions.
There is speculation that this bill comes in response to concerns about the heightened climate of protest in the country magnified by the Occupy movement. It comes on the heels of the Obama administration’s decision to move the G8 summit to Camp David as well as tightened ordinances in Charlotte, N.C., the site of the Democratic National Convention in September.
Anyone in this country who believes that part of how we work for environmental, social, economic or political change is through nonviolent protest of our elected representatives and their policy positions should pay very close attention to this bill.
At the exact same time that corporations have been given unbridled influence over our government by the Citizens United ruling, which protects corporate money as free speech, the peoples’ right to assemble and speak freely is being diminished.
A measure of our democracy is how the government treats its dissenters, let’s make sure President Obama does not let this bill become law.