Stoffa: H.R. 347 presents potential double standard


Photo: Kelsey Kremer/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State students and faculty, and high school students march through Central Campus during the First Amendment Day Freedom March on Thursday, April 7.

Gabriel Stoffa

Just in case you weren’t familiar with the latest piece of legislation that destroys our First Amendment rights, H.R. 347 was approved unanimously by the Senate, the House by 388-3 — only Ron Paul and two other Republicans objected — and signed into law Thursday by President Barack Obama.

H.R. 347, also known as the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act, makes it so now it can be a felony offense to protest in any location that might be under Secret Service protection.

That means if you complain at a location about a presidential candidate being a poor choice, you can be hauled off. This also includes complaining at embassies or other gatherings of importance where the Secret Service might be watching. If you are even found to be in a part of a building that you did not even know was being protected, you can be screwed whether you knew it was illegal or not; prosecutors do not need to prove you knew you were doing something illegal in order to convict you, according to the dingbat language of the law.

The next bit of news you might know: George Clooney was arrested Friday morning while protesting outside the Sudan Embassy, along with his father Nick Clooney; Martin Luther King III; NAACP President Ben Jealous; comedian Dick Gregory; Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.; Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va.; Rep. John Olver,D-Mass.; Rep. Al Green, D-Texas; and former Rep. Tom Andrews, D-Mass.

Clooney and the rest were released Friday afternoon after paying a $100 fine and spending a few hours in jail.

This protest and arrest of such prominent names will surely bring added attention to the plight of the Sudanese people, but what most folks might be missing is the connection to H.R. 347.

You see, the Sudan Embassy is under the protection of the Secret Service because it is a foreign embassy — those embassies are all basically little islands of their home country located right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. — and as such, the protest was ripe for the pickings of the boondoggle created by the moronic passage of H.R. 347.

But nothing happened. No felony charges were leveled and no great outcry of the people occurred.

But wait a little while; we are only a couple days into the newest assault on our rights, and I’m betting the insanity will kick in.

You see, two things can be assumed by Clooney and his crew’s arrest:

1.) H.R. 347 will be used only for the protection of the very situations it purports to focus on. That the law is more of a threat to keep people from overreacting, which is still horseshit because it violates the First Amendment and should be cast out post-haste.

2.) H.R. 347 will only be used to attack the “little” people. That those of privilege and prominence will enjoy the double standard and be let off as they so often are for committing offenses those with little money or influence suffer much more greatly for. That H.R. 347 will be used to quash protest, be those protests tinfoil hatters or legitimate grievances.

Personally, I’m guessing events will play out to prove the latter.

In the end, what all this means is that ill-conceived laws continue to be pushed and passed and the very things that make us proud to be Americans are being trampled upon by many of the representatives the fine folks of this country elected.

With any luck, this ridiculous law will be put before the U.S. Supreme Court in short order and tossed out like the garbage it is. But first, we need some courageous citizens to fall prey to H.R. 347’s outrageous rules and take the fall so the rest of Americans can sleep a little safer knowing the rights this country was founded upon are not being sheared away.

Until then, keep your eyes open and your ear to the ground because it might just be you or a loved one that becomes caught up in the recent web of bullshit trying to govern our lives and take away our rights.

Take care.