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Restricted Speech Zones

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The “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011” (HR 347) may not be a particularly insidious piece of legislation in and of itself, but it does make it easier for the government to abuse it’s power.

To be clear, HR 347 did not create any new laws.  It simply amended a trespass law originally passed in 1971.

That trespass law, still in effect, makes certain temporary locations restricted where individuals under Secret Service protection are present.  Certain conduct within these restricted areas which would “disrupt the orderly conduct of Government,” is a criminal offense.

As the ACLU points out, the passage of HR 347 makes it easier for the government to convict these “disrupters”:

Under the original language of the law, you had to act “willfully and knowingly” when committing the crime. In short, you had to know your conduct was illegal. Under H.R. 347, you will simply need to act “knowingly,” which here would mean that you know you’re in a restricted area, but not necessarily that you’re committing a crime.

The president should be able to give a speech without being interrupted by protestors.  But with every reasonable allowance, there is always the possibility that it can be abused.


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