New bill against trespass troubles civil libertarians

Bursey said that he learned from local reporters about four months later that he had been indicted under a statute called “Presidential Assassinations, Kidnappings and Threats.” “I fell out of my chair when I read that,” Bursey said. This time, Bursey lost his appeals, which again went up to the Supreme Court. And he had to pay a $500 for the misdemeanor charge. Under a 2005 reauthorization of the Patriot Act, that offense would have counted as a felony. The Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Act of 2011 uses similar language.

Bursey thinks that Occupy Wall Street and other protest movements might have caused legislators to boost the law. “Why was it necessary to pass this new statute?” Bursey asked. “Since ’05, under the Patriot Act, this same statute has been in effect replacing the one that I was arrested under. So it’s nothing new.”

Bursey believes he is the only protester to have been prosecuted under the laws in their earlier or subsequent forms. “They only arrested one person in 30 years,” he said. In a rhetorical question to legislators, Bursey asked, “What is the clamoring horde that’s trying to break down your bubble?”

Rottman also could not identify any other protester arrested under the former anti-trespassing statutes, but he hoped that H.R. 347 did not signal its expansion. “I hope this law will not be applied to make lawful protest a federal crime,” Rottman said. “Given the discretion, there is concern that it could be misused. The ACLU and other groups that track these regulations will keep a keen eye on any abuse.”

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