U.S. Gov’t Preparing For Massive Protests By Outlawing Them?

Posted: March 1, 2012 in General

 “Every time the workers come out in the only way they know to protest against conditions which are unbearable the strong hand of the law is allowed to press down heavily upon us.” ~ Rose Schneiderman

One of the more predictable reactions of the Federal and state governments in this period of change–a period when we begin to slowly realize in this country that expansion is not infinite, regardless of how Congress and the Fed try to keep it that way–is the desire to curb protest and demonstration.  Two key events in 2011–the public workers’ occupation of the Wisconsin State House and the general public’s occupation of Zuccotti Park outside the New York Stock Exchange–convinced The Powers That Be that Americans are still far too free to speak up and speak out in the event that the government begin to impose austerity on its population a la Greece.  After all, as George Carlin once said, “even in a fake democracy, the People ought to get what they want once in a while…”  Even as it pretended to support democratic demonstrations in Egypt last year, the U.S. Government was understanding the power of the people to create a mass movement that could overthrow a political system.
And how did this predictable reaction manifest itself?  In three key ways.  First, we’ve seen the unconstitutional National Defense Authorization Act signed into law by Barack Obama.  This Act does nothing less than eliminate Habeas Corpus.  That is, it allows American citizens who have not been charged with a crime to be held indefinitely and without hearing or access to counsel if the President deems that they are supporting terrorism.  This of course flies in the face of what it means to be American, but is not without precedent.  These tactics were used by other Presidents, namely Lincoln and FDR, both men held up by their parties as shining examples of righteousness and justice, during periods of national crisis.  Why, suddenly in 2011/2012, do we need to lock up Americans without hearing or counsel?  Are we suddenly more in danger from American would-be terrorists than we were 10 years ago?
Next, we experienced the flash fury that surrounded Congress’ attempts to control the Internet through the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, both of which intended to outlaw “piracy” on the Internet.  These laws would have essentially given the U.S. Government carte blanche to regulate Web content.  A post should be dedicated some day to how quickly Congress abandoned these bills when millions of Americans contacted Congress to demand SOPA and PIPA be rejected.  While we will probably never be sure how many people contacted their legislators on this issue, it must have been a fantastic amount.  Congress was scared to proceed, and probably decided the American people were not ready to be ram-rodded in this fashion.
But this week, a little-known story that even this author would not be aware of except by random chance comes to us from news source rt.com, an English-language news site from Russia.  You can find the article linked here.  Below I present a selection:
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.
Under the act, the government is also given the power to bring charges against Americans engaged in political protest anywhere in the country.
Under current law, White House trespassers are prosecuted under a local ordinance, a Washington, DC legislation that can bring misdemeanor charges for anyone trying to get close to the president without authorization. Under H.R. 347, a federal law will formally be applied to such instances, but will also allow the government to bring charges to protesters, demonstrators and activists at political events and other outings across America.
The new legislation allows prosecutors to charge anyone who enters a building without permission or with the intent to disrupt a government function with a federal offense if Secret Service is on the scene, but the law stretches to include not just the president’s palatial Pennsylvania Avenue home. Under the law, any building or grounds where the president is visiting — even temporarily — is covered, as is any building or grounds “restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.”
The article alarmed me, to say the least, and I honestly thought it was a joke.  Is this from the Onion?  So, to help me relax, I went to thomas.loc.gov, a Library of Congress website that allows you to search bills before Congress.  This is the official Congressional source for pending legislation.  Sure enough, there it sat:
Amazingly, I noticed under “Latest Action” the phrase, “On motion that the house suspend the rules and agree to the Senate amendment Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: 388 – 3.”  This is Cspan nerdspeak for the fact that the Senate has already passed a similar version of this bill, and that the House was agreeing to the Senate’s proposed changes in order to create an identical bill that could be passed by both chambers and sent to the President for his signature.  It is now essentially waiting to be signed.
Now, before we go off half-cocked, one has to ascertain the context of this bill.  On its face, it sounds insidious, but it could also be a simple update of current law related to Secret Service protection for principals of the U.S. Government and presidential candidates.  So, is this a massive change designed to suppress American resistance to government control, or a minor security update?  Its hard to say without knowing how the law currently reads, but thanks to American Endgame,you can at least judge the text of the bill here:
    `(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.’.
            So, are we entering an Orwellian state where public protest is being controlled by the Federal government?  We’ll see as things progress.  The average citizen sees what he wants to see, I suppose.  Does the thoughtful citizen have reason to be concerned?  Judge for yourself…
                ~DS
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