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US Congress Passes Authoritarian Anti-Protest Law

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A bill passed Monday in the US House of Representatives and Thursday in the Senate would expand existing anti-protest laws that make it a felony-a serious criminal offense punishable by a lengthy prison term-to "enter or remain in" an area designated as "restricted."

The bill-H.R. 347, or the "Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011"-was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate, while only Ron Paul and two other Republicans voted against the bill in the House of Representatives (the bill passed 388-3). Not a single Democratic politician voted against the bill.

The virtually unanimous passage of H.R. 347 starkly exposes the fact that, despite all the posturing, the Democrats and the Republicans stand shoulder to shoulder with the corporate and financial oligarchy, which regarded last year's popular protests against social inequality with a mixture of fear and hostility.

H.R. 347 expands an existing federal criminal statute - Title 18, Section 1752 of the United States Code, or the "restricted buildings or grounds" law. The law was originally passed in 1971 and was last amended in 2006.

Under existing law, the areas that qualify as "restricted" are defined in extremely vague and broad terms. Restricted areas can include "a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting" and "a building or grounds so restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance."