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Jeanine Molloff
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Wednesday 7 March 2012
‘Trespass Bill’ potentially makes peaceable protest anywhere in the U.S.--a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

HR 347 & S 1794 aka The ‘Trespass Bill’ of 2011 Criminalizes Protest...

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As I write this op-ed, I primp for the mirror--looking for the most flattering pose--for my mug shot.  Now, don't get the wrong impression; I haven't been arrested and charged with a federal felony--yet.  Nor is the preparation done in anticipation of a guest stint on "America's Next Top Model"--but as a common sense reaction to Obama's predictable signing of the latest assault on the Bill of Rights--namely--H.R. 347 (and it's companion senate bill S. 1794); aka the "Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011."  Sounding more like an appropriations bill authorizing monies for federal grounds LANDSCAPING--this bill, better known to those in the DC beltway as the 'Trespass Bill'--potentially makes peaceable protest anywhere in the U.S.--a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The legislators responsible for bringing this legislative excrement to life are Representative Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) in the House of Representatives and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT.) leading the Senate version.

Rep. Thomas Rooney--HR 347 Sponsor...

Rep. Rooney, the proud sponsor of HR 347 has served in the Army as a JAG Corps attorney.  Since 2002 he has taught law at West Point with his specialty being Criminal Law and--Constitutional Law.  Ironically, this 'constitutional law' professor has no qualms criminalizing protest and free speech.  

H.R. 347 & Senate Companion Bill S. 1794--Criminalizing protest and free speech...

This bill makes protest of any type potentially a federal offense with anywhere from a year to 10 years in federal prison, providing it occurs in the presence of elites brandishing Secret Service protection, or during an officially defined 'National Special Security Event' (NSSE).  NSSE's ,( an invention of Bill Clinton's) are events which have been deemed worthy of Secret Service protection, which previously received no such treatment.  Justified through part of 'Presidential Decision Directive 62 in 1998;  Bill Clinton created an additional class of special events explicitly under the authority of the US Secret Service.  

Past NSSE Events Such as ...SuperBowl XXXVI....

Past NSSE events included the funerals of Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, and the national security concern that was--Superbowl XXXVI.  Other NSSE protected events include the Academy Awards and the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions.  I suppose presidential candidates, no matter how insane they may be are deserving as much security protection and Brad and Angelina's sex life. 

The dangerous part of this 'executive order' lies not in the triviality of a SuperBowl receiving taxpayer funded Secret Service protection--but in the convenience manufactured for any President desperate to hide deliberations of groups like the G-8, the G-20 and the World Trade Organization.  The classification of such events as NSSE--insures the rich and powerful against any pesky accountability or transparency to the unwashed minions--namely the US public.  HR 347 & S. 1794 insulates such events as the G-8, WTO and presidential conventions against tough questions and politically justified protests.

3 Sole Dissenters Against HR 347...

The House vote tally which took place 02/28/12,  was 338 for and 3 against.  The three dissenters were Rep.Paul Broun R-Georgia, Rep. Justin Amash R-Michigan and Rep. Keith Ellison D-Minnesota.  Rep. Ron Paul was reported earlier as having voted against the bill, but that was based on the original vote conducted 02/28/11.  Rep. Ron Paul ABSTAINED on the final vote.

Rep. Amash, a rising star in the Tea Party, explained his position on Facebook...

..."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.  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.  (It expands the law by changing "willfully and knowingly" to just "knowingly" with respect to the mental state required to be charged with a crime." ___Rep. Justin Amash.

So, Amash as one of the three dissenters has no problem with criminalizing protest on the 'royal' grounds of the Congress or the White House, or even a hotel hosting a fundraiser where legislative aristocracy are protected by the Secret Service--his objection lies with the average tourist unwittingly stumbling onto 'hallowed' ground occupied by legally anointed royalty from our government.   

This bill can be found in pdf form Here.

As you can see, copies were sent both to Speaker of the House Boehner and Vice-President Biden, subsequently--any claim of rogue congressmen or senators running amuck ranges from  disingenuous at best to plain, calloused, obvious lies.  Frankly, most members of the House and Senate regarded these two bills as a procedural duty, never questioning the ramifications of this anti-democratic action.   

Rooney's defense of the indefensible--criminalizing dissent...

Rooney's communication director, Michael Mahaffey dismissed any concerns about civil liberties violations caused by H.R. 347 as..."a whole lot of kerfuffle over nothing.  This (HR 347) doesn't affect anyone's right to protest anywhere at any time. Ever."

Mahaffey further added that this bill is nothing more than a benign 'DC-centric update' of Section 1752 of title 18, United States Code, designed to safeguard persons under Secret Service protection.  Blandly attributing HR 347 as an extension of that protection to the DC area (where such protections fall under the scope of local trespassing ordinances)--Mahaffey explained that 

..."right now it's not a federal violation to jump the fence and run across the White House lawn, this bill makes it a federal violation."

Mahaffey further claimed that this change was requested by the Secret Service itself. To his credit Mahaffey did answer my inquiry with a carefully worded email, explaining further that this bill only offers consistent protection for those requiring Secret Service details such as the President, Vice-President.  At the surface the explanation seemed reasonable until closer examination revealed vague terms in the bill regarding the term "knowingly" , "disruptive conduct" and "impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or offical functions." Furthermore, neither Rep. Rooney or Mahaffey actually answered my question regarding legal precedent, legal case citations, and associated theories.  We are merely supposed to take their word for it.   

Sloppy Legislation...Vague Wording 

The problem with Rep. Rooney's response via Michael Mahaffey lies in the very nature of protest.  Mahaffey claims that this bill does not trample the constitutionally protected right to protest--yet the bill itself criminalizes 'disruptive conduct' in such vague terms that a 7th grader disrupting visiting dignitaries receiving Secret Service protection, over any issue--(no matter how trivial), such as school uniforms--would be potentially guilty of a federal felony.  What Rooney, and so many government elites cynically ignore is the very nature of protest.  Protest in its very nature, is intended to disrupt government business as usual, for without such disruption the protest would be as effective as a leaky condom.  

Congressmen like Justin Amash who quibble over the omission of the word "willfully" as justification for arresting and charging citizens with the federal felony of 'trespassing'; on grounds where a Secret Service protected person happens to be--miss the point.  Amash is correct in noting that the omission of the word "willfully" represents an unfair burden to the citizen.  In legalese, this omission creates a situation where anyone can be charged with a federal felony for 'trespassing' on grounds shared by a person or group receiving Secret Service protection (including NSSE's); even if the ‘trespasser' had no knowledge of such protected persons being present.  In theory, anyplace where there is a protest--could also be the setting for mass felony charges against constitutionally protected behavior such as the right to protest.  

Unfortunately, Amash takes in no further.  What he fails to recognize is the constitutional right to protest, to petition a government for redress of grievances.  In short, this Congress and this President have established themselves as would be aristocrats and monarchs.  This bill represents a legislative Maginot Line separating Congress, the President and the corporations who appear to own them--from the rest of us rabble.  Amash's offering is tantamount to an obese glutton offering crumbs to the starving--symbolically empty and useless.   

The Senate's Response....Dead Silence.

To date, no response has been received by the Senate sponsor of HR 347's companion bill Senate Bill 1794, Senator Richard Blumenthal.  In fact, this bill was passed in the Senate by 'unanimous consent,' which is significant in terms of senatorial accountability and transparency.  To quote

..."This bill passed in the Senate by unanimous consent.  A record of each senator's position was not kept."  How very convenient for each senator that their position was never recorded--anywhere.  No accountability and certainly no transparency--just gross arrogance. ( The House of Representatives DID have a record of each representative's vote.  Here is the link to the House vote record.

This link can be used to contact any member of the US Senate regarding their vote and the lack of transparency on such an important issue.   

The Senate rule of 'unanimous consent' is defended as a method of expediting legislative business otherwise considered inconsequential.  The Senate's 'volume of precedents' explains the nature of unanimous consent:

..."Whereas Senate Rules permit virtually unlimited debate, and very few restrictions on the right to offer amendments, these (unanimous consent) agreements usually limit debate and the right of senators to offer amendments."

Though a majority of Senate business is dispensed with using 'unanimous consent'--it is inherently troubling that our Senators view the dismissal of our basic right to 'peaceably assembly' as -inconsequential.

In Conclusion...

In this age of ever increasing police militarization and shrinking civil liberties both here at home and worldwide; the US government under President Obama has morphed into a third Bush term.  No longer content to stonewall the public with empty slogans issuing from 'empty suits'--the political class has degraded to writing obviously illegitimate 'laws' in a desperate attempt to crush any dissent.  As this bill made its way through the illustrious halls of Congress--no open discussion was entertained for an entire year.  Not a single member of Congress spoke out against this obscenity.  Not a single member of Congress alerted the press.  Not a single member of Congress contacted legal advocacy groups such as the ACLU, Bill of Rights Defense Committee or the National Lawyer's Guild.  The silence deafening-- if not conspiratorial.

Congress Shall Make No Law...

Just this past year we saw the President who campaigned on 'hope' and 'change'--announce some galling changes, with Congress (for the most part) rubber stamping each and every death blow to what remains of the Bill of Rights.  President Obama has claimed the right to declare anyone a 'terrorist' or 'terrorist sympathizer' based on nothing more than presidential opinion, and order their assassination. No evidence is required--at least that the public can see.  We are told to blissfully 'trust' our public officials even when they are unworthy of such trust.  The galling fact that Rep. Tom Rooney has taught constitutional law to cadets at West Point is chilling in light of this sneaky 'end-run' around the 1st amendment.  In case Rep. Rooney has forgotten that amendment--I'll quote it here :

"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 to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."  

Perhaps Congress and the President will find their inner patriot and reverse this vile stripping of our rights.  It could happen.  By the way--can anyone pass the Prozac?

ABOUT Jeanine Molloff

Jeanine Molloff is a veteran urban educator specializing in communications disorders.  She moonlights as a political commentator on various issues including civil liberties in an age of ‘terrorism’, ecological justice, collateral damage in war zones, economic equity and education.  Jeanine has published with Huffington Post, OpEdNews, FireDogLake, Counterpunch and Huffington Post Union of Bloggers.  In an era of state and corporate sanctioned censorship; she believes that journalism which demands answers to the tough questions is the last remaining bulwark of democracy.  Now more than ever we need the likes of I.F. Stone over the insipid voices of celebrity infotainment.  Jeanine works and lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Well done to think of

Well done to think of somehting like that

First,it is already illegal

First,it is already illegal to protest on private property, or in some areas even "to congregate in such a fashion as to impede unrestricted entry and egress from a facilty" IE, standing in front of the door. Second, unless I am wrong secret service dudes can ask you to vacate simply on suspicion of danger to their principal., so this bill is not a big jump, it just nails an already closed door.

I get it this site is a

I get it this site is a liberal Elite TOOL box. The Ops being the TOOLS. Rusty dull ones at that!

She specializes in

She specializes in communication disorders? I think she has this syndrome. I just read the PDF and it in no way limits the first amendment.

Update. Senate bill 1794/HR

Update. Senate bill 1794/HR 347 in no way criminalizes protest. It does criminalize obstructing government officials' movement going in or out of a restricted building (White House, VP mansion,military bases, FBI offices, CIA offices or any other restricted property and etc., unless specifically authorized to be present.) As long as you are not in a restricted area without autoirzation, things will be the same as before, only this time it will be a felony rather than a misdemeanor, which in itself is taking a flame thrower to a flea problem. For more,

Writer needs to get some

Writer needs to get some basic facts straight. First, he claims that any protest could be construed as felonious then further down finally states that protest where secret service is present than very lightly touches on the fact that it would apply to private property where Secret Service is present. Sorry, but private property should never be available to public protest. To make it so would be as bad as Indiana's law that prohibits employers from banning guns on work property, a clear loss of property rights.

Writer needs to get some

Writer needs to get some basic facts straight. First, he claims that any protest could be construed as felonious then further down finally states that protest where secret service is present than very lightly touches on the fact that it would apply to private property where Secret Service is present. Sorry, but private property should never be available to public protest. To make it so would be as bad as Indiana's law that prohibits employers from banning guns on work property, a clear loss of property rights.

Just finished writing my

Just finished writing my Senator.


I used a platform of "Arrogance Or Ignorance?" - stating that it was either very arrogant for all of them to simply pass this unanimously OR supremely ignorant that none of them fully understood the bill.

Though I put my money on the former...

You're right except I would

You're right except I would put my money on the latter. Bills passed by unanimous consent are almost always not controversial, and most Members and staffs just assumed the bill was what it's sponsors said it was and didn't think about it. This has happened many times before when there are a bunch of new Members. If you hate this, don't ever let term limits pass.

If those Occupy guys and gals

If those Occupy guys and gals paid more attention to politics and actually VOTED or participated in democracy in their communities, then they could make a meaningful change rather than being a pain in the butt to people who are just doing their job. Most of those guys I had seen protesting don;t even bother to vote, and therefore should first fuilfill this basic civil duty rather than being ignorant of what politicians are doing in front of them, while they are not paying attention.

"being ignorant of what

"being ignorant of what politicians are doing in front of them, while they are not paying attention"

OK, so you've obviously been 'paying attention', what have you done or what are you going to do about it? You're quick to condemn the 'Occupy guys and gals' and yet offer no condemnation of the politicians.

Learn to recognise who your real enemies are.

A Few Thomas Jefferson

A Few Thomas Jefferson Quotes: The Spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.... All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.... Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.... A little rebellion now and then.. is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.... Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.... Educate and inform the whole mass of the people..They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.... I hope we shall crush in it's birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strenght, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.... I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. This guy was damn smart.

About the only way to change

About the only way to change this Republican and Democratic state of mind is to change the leadership. Everyone on the ballot supports ALL of the policies of taking away our civil liberties. They don't even give these atrocities lip service. Except, of course, Ron Paul. Who cares what his other beliefs are? He wants to get us out of the wars and restore the constitution. Vote for him - nope. He had some racist comments in his newsletter 20 years ago, he wants people to actually be held accountable for their own lives, he can't get elected, yada, yada, yada. I hear people say so often that they won't vote for him as they want their vote to count. Count for what? More of same? We deserve what we get.

Ron Paul? You mean the Ron

Ron Paul? You mean the Ron Paul that ABSTAINED? You mean the Ron Paul who is content to leave matters of civil liberties up to the governments and voters proven throughout history to be the most likely to eviscerate the B.O.R.; namely, the states? You mean the Ron Paul that talks a good game but has NEVER sponsored, let alone got passed, one single piece of legislation to back up the pie-in-the-sky, utopian fantasy images he draws with his rhetoric? You mean THAT Ron Paul? Ron "Pied Piper" Paul? I don't think so.

As to the racist and other whacked out, far right, newsletter content you attempt to minimize. Those newsletters, and those comments, spanned a number of years. They weren't an aberration. It's no coincidence that RP is the darling of the separatist, white supremacist, and neo-Nazi crowd. They don't love him for nothing and his attempts to distance himself from the likes of Stormfront are disingenuous. They served his purpose and he was more than happy to pander to them when he felt the need.

Logic dictates that one of 4 conditions exist regarding those newsletters.
1. He knew about the extensive racist content and agreed with it.
2. He knew about the content, disagreed with it, but was impotent to stop its publication.
3. He knew about the content, disagreed, but saw fit to publish it anyway in order to pander to the right wing fringe so vital to his base.
4. For year after year, he was unaware that someone in his small, mostly family, publishing company was publishing right wing fringe and racist content behind his back in a newsletter bearing his name.

There are NO other possible scenarios outside of those four. None.
So, you tell me which of those indicates that RP has the temperament, belief system and administrative skills to be the chief administrator of the largest governmental body on the planet. Read them again. Think about it. I'll wait.

Meanwhile, consider RP's convoluted and shifting explanations of how those newsletters ended up going out with their racist comments intact. Consider his evasiveness, defensiveness and lack of willingness to take responsibility until he was pinned to the wall, at which point he claimed ignorance and admitted to no more than being negligent of what was being written under his name.

In a RP administration with hundreds of subordinates who have access to his stationery and signature, how many more missives can we look forward to, the content of which he will deny responsibility. He couldn't keep a half dozen underlings in control. What makes you think he'll be able to effectively administer hundreds of them?

I'll add , this Ron Paul

I'll add , this Ron Paul "REP. RON PAUL: What I’m talking about are real cuts, actually cutting. But you can’t do this unless you change policy. If you expect to have the entitlement system, have welfare benefits from cradle to grave, free housing, free food and free medical care and free education, you can’t do it."

What do HR 347 & S. 1794

What do HR 347 & S. 1794 accomplish?

They snuff out criticism of corporations. As if, somehow, this criticism was unfair and undeserved.

Essentially The State is using police power to protect the interests of the corporations against the General Welfare of "we the people" human beings.

"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

While I can be more adamant

While I can be more adamant about things like the NDAA, much has been made mostly falsely about the legislative intent of this bill. Your is at least the first article that points out that most of what this bill does is covered by USC and/or current state legislation. What you dont point out, and perhaps the most salient characteristic of the bill, (you touched on it) is that the words of the current legislation "willingly and knowingly" have been changed to "knowingly". This is the only part of the bill that give less of a threshold and burden of proof to charges being levied under this bill. Put that word "willingly" back into the bill and the burden of proving the allegations is much more difficult for a prosecutor. This bill alone is a rather harmless extension of current law. It is the totality of the bills, such as the NDAA, and legal opinions like the one that says we can shoot American citizens without proof, charges or any protection of the Constitution provided to that citizen that is far more alarming. All the worlds major governments are moving closer and closer to totalitarian regimes than the oligarchies because of the concentration of wealth and the need to protect that concentration. This is not going to get better anytime soon.

Oops... he is in the Senate.

Oops... he is in the Senate. Still...

I will have to read this one

I will have to read this one myself. It's hard to believe that some of the House or Senate members who support Occupy (ie Al Franken) would let this get by without any debate.

Well, it would have been nice

Well, it would have been nice if you had gotten the word out about this BEFORE the bill passed!!!! WTF??? Now, we are stuck with it and no one even knew it was happening.

How can this be repealed?

Anything passed can be

Anything passed can be repealed--suggest you follow the RONN185 suggestion below.

At this point in this

At this point in this country, it wouldn't surprise me if it passes, gets signed and the Supreme Court upholds it. This country is on it's way to a police state.

OK, now arbitrary end to

OK, now arbitrary end to peaceful protest. Citizens United. NDAA. No criminal charges for the illegal telecom surveillance. Prez O feasting on SuperPac culture as do the most craven of his opponents. Expansion of the privatized prison gulag. Militarization of local police. Arne Duncan assiduously working to reduce all K-12 to standardized testing and tracking. Gitmo still open. Upping of nukes-for-war funding. Licensing of more civie nukes. Fulbright continuing as reward for those deepest in the depersonalized rabbit holes of corporate academe departmental silos. Student loan debt surpassing all credit card debt. Biz ed majors by far outnumbering all others across "higher" ed. Banking & high finance sociopaths yet mega-self-bonusing. Women facing state rape to please the medieval fundamentalists. Obesity rates rising. Literacy rates falling.

What am I leaving out, missing, forgetting?

You only missed: as a nation

You only missed: as a nation we are on the fast track to Fascism. What you cited above are symptoms.

I've been telling my wife, "If you think this nation will pay for our care in old age retirement like they did previous generations of the elderly, you have another think coming." Not at the expense of the military industrial complex we won't.

Do you really think the FAR RIGHT will allow the greatest military in the earth's history to sit idle? Hardly.

"This bill represents a

"This bill represents a legislative Maginot Line...." Well, Hitler made a pretty effective end run around France's Maginot Line -- he ignored it. Fill the jails!

By definition this law, and

By definition this law, and SO many others, means that using websites, email, or phone calls to the assistants of the assistants of Representatives is meaningless. They have private phones, private Faxes, and private emails to and from which they speak or listen to those who matter. And those who matter are not citizens/taxpayers. This is another lurch forward toward the Joe Stalin solution. But actually, protests don't do as much as hard-core consume boycotts. INCLUDING iPhone trinkets from Apple, Inc., and all purchases of anything that is not essential for life: Food, basic shelter, basic clothing, H2o, essential healthcare. Cut way way back on usage of electricity, gasoline, heat/AC. Last but definitely not least, move funds off the Street and into Credit Unions (after ensuring they are real). We did this in 1974 - 1981 and we broke OPEC until OPEC became Exxon Mobil....

And buy those essentials from

And buy those essentials from local Mom&Pop stores or garage sales, not WalMart or Amazon.

If you want to be free, by

If you want to be free, by God, you'd better do what you're told!

Trish House's picture

Demanding anything of a

Demanding anything of a wholly corrupt congress is like demanding your rights when your ship has been hijacked by pirates. There you are trembling in the hold while armed thugs guard the exits and you send a nice letter to the pirate chief demanding your rights. Hah!

What you fail to realize is that you have no rights with pirates. THEY make the rules and they enforce them with guns. All you can do if you want your life back is to become smarter, better, bigger pirates than they are and take back what was stolen.

OBEY your elected

OBEY your elected bought-and-paid-for corporate whores Blindly and Unquestioningly OR you can be taken into custody without probable cause and held incommunicato indefinitely ("disappeared" Pinochet-style) pursuant to the Patriot Act and the NDAA.

GOD (of Darkness) Bless Amerika.

Forget the hold, they'll just

Forget the hold, they'll just assassinate you now.

View this video to educate

View this video to educate you further.

Are you a paid

Are you a paid misinformationist?

Did a 1st grader make this

Did a 1st grader make this video??!! ACORN caused banks to make risky loans? That has to be the stupidest thing I've ever ever. I'm sorry if I missed the point but the BS alert system in my brain told me to shut it off once I heard that ACORN was causing banks to make risky loans. I probably only watched the first 40 seconds of the and astoundingly unprofessional, crappy animation. Some advice...PLEASE don't quit your day job!

Right wing misinformationists

Right wing misinformationists are under every rock you overturn.

After the previous Great Depression, the people knew who was responsible. This time, those responsible have their own TV channel, they own pet politicians and were actually rewarded for their criminality that destroyed the world economy. And it's all due to the massive misinformation campaign waged by the likes of the weasel above. If you bought into their nonsense you would have to believe that ACORN is the root of all evil.

It appears we need to contact

It appears we need to contact our senators and representatives and raise UNholy Hell.
WE the People cannot tolerate our elected idiots passing laws that they want, no matter the constitution that says it is illegal.
WE must stand and fight for what is ours!

You just answered Cedar Cat's

You just answered Cedar Cat's question above.

Here we go again over and

Here we go again over and over, the Congress is violating the United States of America's Constitution. They are going to remove the RIGHTS of the Citizens to Peacefully Assemble and Protest.


Educate yourself before going

Educate yourself before going off half cocked.

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