President Obama Signs "Anti-Protest" Bill H.R. 347

Melissa Stusinski

President Obama signed bill H.R. 347 (also known as the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011) into law on March 9th, amid numerous protests from the Occupy movement, as well as other agencies. HR 347 is a modification from Senate bill S. 1794, which restricted people from entering or blocking public areas that have been closed off by Secret Service while a person under their protection is passing through. The law also included major public events, such as the Inaguration and Presidential campaigns.

The new law, which passed the House with a vote of 399-3, extends the original law by adding more protected areas within Washington D.C, and removing the word "willfully," from the paragraph stating that protesters can be prosecuted if they enter the area "willfully and knowingly."

Representative Justin Amash, R-Michigan, explains this change by saying:

" The bill expands current law to make it a crime to enter or remain in an area where an official is visiting even if the person does not know it's illegal to be in that area and has no reason to suspect its illegal."
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

What do you think? Is H.R. 347 a violation of our right to protest in the D.C. area, or is it merely an update to the bill passed in 1974 to further protect people under the protection of the Secret Service?

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