Huge Majority of U.S. House Votes to Criminalize Protest Against any Visiting World Leader
Is the Democratic Party the party of civil liberty?
Not anymore. Not if you judge by congressional Democrats’ action this past week in overwhelmingly passing H.R. 347, a bill that makes it a federal crime punishable by a year in jail to peacefully, non-violently protest “in the proximity” of a president, a vice president, a presidential candidate, or even a visiting world leader.
I’m not kidding: H.R. 347 really does those things. Read the text of H.R. 347, which makes it a crime to act in any way that might knock an event off-center if the event includes a secret-service-protected person like — yes — any visiting world leader. Even if that disruption takes the form of a peaceful, non-violent, non-trespassing protest nearby. So if a dictator comes to the United States, and you stand on a street corner with a hundred other people to carry signs and shout at his motorcade? That’s a federal crime now.
I say it’s a federal crime now because H.R. 347 passed. It didn’t pass by a small margin. Only three Representatives — Republican Justin Amash, Republican Paul Broun, and Democrat Keith Ellison — voted against it in the House (Roll Call 73). And nobody voted against it in the Senate — the measure passed by voice vote, and not one Senator made the necessary objection to force a roll call.
The Republican Party has long been the party of censorious authoritarianism. With this solid vote against the first amendment constitutional right to free assembly, free speech and petitioning for redress of grievance, the Democratic Party has yanked the mantle of authoritarianism firmly around its own shoulders.
This past Tuesday, when the vote for H.R. 347 quickly and quietly made its final passage from the Capitol building to the desk of the President, civil liberty had only 3 friends out of 535 members of Congress. I shudder at the thought.