I was Googling my name and some other keywords and ended up on a web site called “Dumbell Nebula” and while there I saw this article listed about HR 347 supposedly outlawing protest in the country. I was a little curious, but I see such crazy unfounded stuff all the time on right-wing web sites and chain emails and would have passed it by except the link was to the Huffington Post, not typically noted for right-wing nut job articles, so I clicked through.
Huffpo indeed had the article that went utterly ballistic about this new law that passed the Congress with only 3 nay votes, and was signed by the President in 2011. The article by comedian Lee Camp said:
So basically if the government wants to shut down a protest, they just send a secret service officer down there to scratch his balls, and then they can start putting people in jail for a year or more.
Commenters (but not all) on the story ranted about the Constitution’s First Amendment being trampled.
I wouldn’t have written about this old news except that Googling “HR 347” protest returns an estimated 51,600 hits. Snopes has “been there, done that.”
In actuality, the bill makes a minor change to a law dealing with trespassing and disrupting government operations passed in 1971. The original law doesn’t mention protest, but trespassing and disrupting operations. HR 347 is an amendment that basically lowers the intent requirement for a crime to have been committed. The ACLU was concerned about the law, but only in a larger context, noting that the actual impact of the specific bill is very small and creates no new offenses, although it might make abuse more easy.
Read the new HR 347 here. The previous version of 18 USC § 1752 reads:
18 USC § 1752 – Restricted building or grounds
(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
or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b).
(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.