Photo credit: Jessie Owen (Creative Commons)
A bill has just passed the House and the Senate that criminalizes protests anywhere near the presence of a designated government official. On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted nearly unanimously (388-3) in favor of H.R. 347, the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011.
As part of this legislation, Congress expressly forbids trespass onto the grounds of the White House. Many likely believe that such a law already existed and they are right. The controversial aspect of this bill’s restatement of that statute is that it expands the scope of the federal government’s authority to bring charges against those deemed trespassers at any location placed provisionally under the jurisdiction of the Secret Service.
The present state of the law prosecutes White House trespassers under a local Washington, D.C. ordinance. Prior to this latest federal action, violation of this ordinance was a misdemeanor.