The Death of Free Speech

I’ve previously reported on the vanishing right to peaceably assemble, now two more rights supposedly guaranteed by the First Amendment are on the verge of being killed. On March 1 HR 347 was submitted to the White House for President Obama’s signature. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent and had only 3 “nays” in the House (42 Representatives did not vote). Justin Amash (one of the three to vote against the bill) posted on his facebook page; “Current law makes it illegal to enter or remain in an area where certain government officials (more particularly, those with Secret Service protection) will be visiting temporarily if and only if the person knows it’s illegal to enter the restricted area but does so anyway. [H.R. 347] 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 it’s illegal.”

In addition to making it illegal to unknowingly trespass in an area that has been deemed “restricted” it is now illegal to heckle and possibly even question a “protected” person if law enforcement or Secret Service deems your action as “disorderly or disruptive conduct” and you are “within such proximity to, any restricted building or grounds… that, such conduct, in fact, impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions.” This bill, which will likely become law, will essentially codify into law the use of “free speech zones” and criminalize activity such as asking Rick Santorum if he has ever googled himself.

It is being reported that HR 347 will also “seriously diminish the right of American citizens to petition their Government for a redress of grievances by outlawing protests where key government officials or other VIP’s may be nearby.” A violation of this law gets you either a fine or up to 10 years in prison; both if you dare to exercise your right to bear arms during your protest – as Chris (last name withheld) did during a 2009 protest in Phoenix, Arizona – even if you harmed no one.