Without fanfare, the US House of Representatives signed off on HR-347, the "ANTI - Occupy Bill".
As you'll see below, this is not a new law, but one that can now be more liberally interpreted.
ALL the so called liberals signed off on this, even the so called ultra-liberal, NANCY PELOSI.
Last week, H.R. 347, otherwise known as the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act, passed the House 399-3, and on Thursday it was signed into law by President Obama. In response, bloggers from the libertarian Daily Paul to the leftist Daily Kos accused the federal government of gutting the First Amendment.
Did something important happen while the rest of us were rolling our eyes at Rush Limbaugh?
According to the ACLU, there is indeed something disturbing about H.R. 347—but it had already been part of federal law long before last week.
The new bill modifies a 1971 law that restricted entering or blocking public areas cordoned off by the Secret Service while a protected individual is passing through, or during major public events like the Super Bowl or party nominating conventions. Violators can face up to a year in jail; if they’re carrying a dangerous weapon, it’s ten.
Of course, it’s probably a good thing that the police can arrest strangers with guns who try to get a little too close to the president. But more recently, this law has been used to shunt protestors at major political events into “free speech zones,” isolated from the crowds—and cameras—that might give their constitutionally-protected demonstrations some heft. Another issue is that the Department of Homeland Security has fairly wide latitude in what areas it can declare off-limits.
This has major implications for anyone planning protests at the NATO or G8 conferences later this spring, including Occupy. But that would have been the case whether or not H.R. 347 had passed.
What, then, has changed? First, certain parts of the District of Columbia, like the White House lawn, were added to the list of federally protected areas. (Previously, they had only been covered under DC trespassing statutes.) Second, and somewhat more ominously, it’s now easier for prosecutors to convict people arrested under the law. Before, violators had to “willfully and knowingly” enter a protected area, meaning that they knew the area was protected, and knew that it was illegal for them to be there. H.R. 347 deletes the word “willfully,” meaning that prosecutors no longer need to prove that someone knew what they were doing was illegal to convict them.
In other words, Congress removed a hurdle in enforcing the law without actually adding any new restrictions to the First Amendment. Then again, the restrictions that already exist are enough to concern anyone who believes the right to assembly is a crucial part of the democratic process.
The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy - The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence.
by Naomi Wolf November 25, 2011
But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists.
The New York Times reported that "New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers" covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that "It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk." In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and Washingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on "how to suppress" Occupy protests.
For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, "we are going after these scruffy hippies". Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women's wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president.
So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organized suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.
If you would like to learn more about how the 1% strangles public discourse, then it's time to watch Orwell Rolls In His Grave.
You can download it here.