Warehouse D

Blocking Free Speech, Assembly

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New Law Attacks The First Amendment And The Occupy Movement


By James Donahue


As spring spreads across the land there are clear signs that the Occupy Movement, launched September 17, 2011 in Manhattan’s Liberty Square and which quickly spread to cities across the United States before going global, is rearing up stronger than ever.


Many occupations attempted to keep the movement alive by pitching tents in public parks and braving the winter. They met with resistance from city officials and police who declared camping illegal or damaging to community-owned property. Campers have been evicted, arrested, and forced to tear down their tent communities almost as soon as they appear.


Some individuals have successfully fought the resistance in the courts, arguing First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly.


Now it appears that federal lawmakers have approved legislation designed to make the occupation of public and protected lands without expressed permission illegal.


The new bill, HR 347, the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act, also known as the “Trespassing Bill,” would criminalize protest groups that dare to enter or remain on restricted buildings and grounds “without lawful authority to do so.”


The penalty for “engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct” in these places and “disrupting the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions” will face fines and imprisonment of up to 10 years.


The bill only requires President Obama’s signature before it becomes the law of the land.


The record shows that only three Washington legislators voted against HR 347. They were Paul Brown, R-Ga; Justin Amash, R-MI, and Ron Paul, R-TX. Notice that all three are Republicans. The Democrats all folded on this one.


The law gives federal and local law enforcement more teeth “to bring charges against Americans engaged in political protests” anywhere in the United States.


Because of this legislation we can expect more trouble this year as protesters gather in the streets of American cities to demonstrate against housing foreclosures, unfair banking practices, unfair health system, efforts to break labor unions, threats of war, the breakdown of the American education system, the assault on women, environmental issues, the breakdown of the nation’s transportation system and its infrastructure, and all of the other issues that Congress has failed to fix.


There may be more violence in the streets. We also can expect the American Civil Liberties Union and other rights organizations to challenge this new law in the courts. At question will be the clarification of such terms as “government business,” “Official functions” and what actions impede or disrupt these functions.


A report in the Global Research website suggests that the vagueness written in the law “will allow for the US government to effectively stifle protest and free speech, thus criminalizing such actions . . . In addition to this, such a law will make it impossible for Americans to exercise their First Amendment rights when government business is being attended to or official functions are occurring.”