H.R. 347: A Federal Anti-Occupy Bill?


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A bill outlawing many forms of protest employed by the Occupy Wall Street movement  has received overwhelming bipartisan support in the House, passed unanimously in the Senate and is now awaiting President Obama’s signature to become law.

The Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011, also known as H.R. 347 and S.1794, cordons off “restricted buildings and grounds” and punishes anyone who unlawfully enters or occupies, disrupts government business within, or impedes access to and from these areas with up to one year imprisonment, a fine or both. In other words, the bill criminalizes sit-ins, “mic checks,” human chains and a number of other forms of non-violent civil disobedience that have been the primary modes of protest for Occupy.

In the context of H.R. 347, “restricted buildings and grounds” refers to the White House, its lawn and any space being visited by someone protected by the Secret Service. Aside from presidents, vice presidents and their families, Secret Service also protects foreign dignitaries in the United States and leading presidential and vice presidential candidates. This expands the types of situations banning Occupy-style protests from all presidential and vice presidential affairs to visits by foreign leaders and most presidential primary events. (Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are all currently receiving Secret Service protection.)

Additionally, the Secret Service is responsible for the planning and implementation of security for National Special Security Events, or NSSEs, a category of occasions deemed by the Department of Homeland Security to be likely targets of terrorism or other criminal activity. Since May of 1998, when then-President Bill Clinton issued a classified directive devising NSSEs, there have been at least 38 such events. These NSSEs include the subjects of some of the largest demonstrations in recent U.S. history, including the World Trade Organization Meeting in Seattle, the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh, Republican and Democratic National Conventions, Presidential inaugurations and sporting events like the Super Bowl.

Although H.R. 347’s introduction in January of 2011 predates the rise of Occupy, thereby diminishing the chance that it was concocted specifically to quell Occupy-style protests, it presents another potential tool with which local, state and federal authorities can crack down on demonstrators.


Arvind Dilawar is a writer and editor living in New York.


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  • Lindy

    Check out this petition to Obama here, to prevent him from signing final approval. http://www.change.org/petitions/the-president-of-the-united-states-veto-h-r-347-and-protect-freedom-of-speech

  • http://www.facebook.com/octoped.layerbrain Aaron A. Cagle

    In soviet america, government protests YOU!

  • Anonymous

    I fear that it is increasingly apparent that only through a show of force will we ever truly have the voice of the majority obeyed.

    • SickOfLosers

      Guess what jerk – we don’t live under mob rule. We don’t give two shakes about what your majority wants – we will never obey. You sorry losers bring force, we’ll put you right back down with force in return.

      • ANTIHERO GIJOE

        WHEN YOU ACTUALLY READ ANONYMOUS’S STATEMENT, HE’S NOT SAYING NOTHING WRONG OR CRIMINAL OR ANYTHING. ON THE OTHER HAND YOU SEEM TO FIT THE PROFILE OF A FASCIST.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Sanders/100000001823225 James Sanders
  • Nate

    What’s funny is that back during his run for office, any one that pointed to obama’s very socialist past, his very socialist circle of friends/ associates, and his many dirty chicago style political maneuvering was labeled racists.

    Remember, obama specifically demanded the ability to permanently detain ANYONE, without any legal recourse. Oh that’s right, he said he would never use it. I trust him, don’t you?

  • jackson

    Article is a bit confusing, Arvind. You say: “In other words, the bill criminalizes sit-ins, ‘mic checks,’ human chains and a number of other forms of non-violent civil disobedience.” First, civil disobedience by its own definition is already illegal. These other actions may or may not be illegal depending upon how they are carried out. If you sit in in a public building and block other people’s access then you are already in violation of the law if you fail to disperse and you may be arrested, with or without the new restrictions. The occupy movement will need to work with helpful lawyers to find out exactly what kinds of restrictions will apply. For example, can a meeting of ALEC be declared an NSSE event and what does this mean to protesters?

    • http://www.twitter.com/ArvSux Arvind Dilawar

      As you yourself mention (“These other actions may or may not be illegal”), not all of those modes of protest are currently outlawed; H.R. 347 would further criminalize the action of peaceful Occupy protestors and give law enforcement yet another tool to wield against them.

      For an example of what effect “security zones” can have on free speech, see: http://chicagoist.com/2012/01/19/city_council_approves_natog8_ordina.php

      I hope that addresses your confusion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Occupyrichmondva-Comfort/100003065038621 Occupyrichmondva Comfort

    H.R. 347 the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act proves once again that the Democratic Party is Not and merely the “Controlled Opposition” for our Corporate Overlords.

    Just as the Seattle Five have proven we must always take our actions to the People for Justice.

    Never take a Plea……..

  • ZEB TIDWELL

    NAZI AMERICA,THEY CANT LOCK UP EVERYONE SO AMERICA STAND UP AND STEP OUT THAT IS WHAT WE DID TO GET AMERICA THATS WHAT WE WILL HAVE TO DO TO KEEP IT!!!!!!!!