In a recent promo for the hugely popular game show “Kaun Banega Crorepati,” India’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” Bollywood superstar and host Amitabh Bachchan asks a contestant from the northeastern states which country the Indian city of Kohima belongs to. The options are China, Nepal, India or Bhutan.
She requests to use a lifeline, and some viewers laugh, thinking the answer is obvious. Bachchan tells her 100 percent of the audience says India. “This is something everyone knows,” he tells her.
“Yes sir, everyone knows about it, but how many believe in it?” she replies.
Imagine an America in which the government can deny protest in any public space it deems fit. Where wearing a dissenting shirt around an elected official could be construed as a felony. Where First-Amendment protections become privileges subjectively doled out by the state. Sadly, that America is pretty much here.
In March, Congress passed HR 347, a bill that limits Americans’ ability to protest in public and on government grounds. Mainstream media didn’t raise peep, but now there’s finally some anger building. The bill, passed almost unanimously, makes it a federal offense punishable by up to ten years in prison to “knowingly“ protest in the vicinity of the Secret Service—that is anywhere the Secret Service “is or will be temporarily visiting.”
It also makes many public events impervious to lawful protest. Any “National Security Special Event” (NSSE) requires Secret Service protection. NSSE-designated events have proliferated since 9/11 to include Super Bowls, concerts, campaign events, and now any public event that Very Important People want protest-free.
Most dangerously, it criminalizes protest. Under the bill, “disorderly or disruptive conduct” or activities that “impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions” could warrant felony charges. What constitutes such “disruptive conduct” rests in the eye of the beholder—or the eye of Eric Holder. To put it plainly: the government can decide where and when free speech is allowed and severely prosecute any “disruptive” activity, while we’re confined to “free speech zones.” We can help fix it, however! Join our petition below to protect our speech rights!
PETITION TO CONGRESS: We treasure our first amendment rights of free speech and public assembly! HR 347 limits valid arenas of peaceful public protest, and broadens the government’s ability to curtail civil liberties. We demand that Congress amend the bill to provide clearer language as to what constitutes “disruptions”; to allow for reasonable, peaceful protest at NSSEs and around Secret Service; and to ensure that no peaceful protest can ever be deemed a felony.
TL;DR: Guys, this is REALLY fucking important. Under this bill Occupy Wall Street, the March on Washington & virtually ANY other protests could not have happened. Peaceful protests are an important part of our political process (not to mention our Constitutional Rights!) Please take a moment to sign & reblog this. Thanks!