The US House of Representatives voted 388-to-3 in favor of H.R. 347 late Monday, a bill which is being dubbed the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011. In the bill, Congress officially makes it illegal to trespass on the grounds of the White House, which, on the surface, seems not just harmless and necessary, but somewhat shocking that such a rule isn’t already on the books. The wording in the bill, however, extends to allow the government to go after much more than tourists that transverse the wrought iron White House fence.
Before I start on my little adventure of looking at the bill let me first give some major kudos to Russia Today. Not only did they give the bill number but they also tried to link to the bill itself (unfortunately they linked to temporary results from the Thomas Library of Congress, but they at least tried). Now let’s take a look at the bill’s text:
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
‘(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.’.
Beautiful huh? This bill is the exact thing I’ve been warning people about whenever a protest in Washington DC takes place. As I’ve said the king doesn’t like it when the peasants gather at the castle and this bill is a result of unruly peasants daring to take their message to the White House. Now going to the White House or any other location where somebody protected by the Secret Service is and “knowingly, and with intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions” can face up to a year in prison. Our favorite Arizona protester with a gun would not face up to ten years in prison for his exercise of free speech.
I would echo the statement made in the Russia Today article and say that the First Amendment is dead but it died a long time ago. The Bush initiated “free speech zones” were bad but this is even more ridiculous, and it’s already passed the House and Senate so it merely requires a signature from Emperor Obama (who will absolutely love this bill since it will shield him from people with differing opinions to his own).