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
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
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.”