WASHINGTON, DC - In a move that has struck a nerve with Occupy and protest groups throughout the United States, Pres. Obama signed into law last week what has been called the "anti-protest" or "anti-Occupy" law.
H.R. 347, known as the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act, passed the U.S. House two weeks ago by a vote of 399-3, almost unanimously. The new law modifies an existing law that prohibited individuals from entering or blocking public areas closed off by Secret Service Agents while those agents were actively protecting someone at the time. The law also included certain public events, such as the Democratic National Convention or a major political fundraiser.
H.R. 347 also prohibits protesters from being in an increased number of locations in Washington, D.C.; essentially prohibits protesting whenever a Secret Service Agent is on the scene; and allows for the prosecution of individuals who unknowingly enter the prohibited space. The police can then escort protesters into a "free speech zone" where they can't bother anyone.
Occupy protesters marched on the White House last week, voicing their opposition to a law that appears to be aimed at the heart of their movement. They carried banners that quoted the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads, in part: "Congress shall make no law... 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."