Stay away from these guys. Credit: AP
If you’ve followed H.R. 347, it’s no surprise the NATO Summit is being considered a NSEE by the Department of Homeland Security. H.R. 347 expanded a 1971 trespass statute that criminalizes activity near areas restricted by the Secret Service. The most troubling part of the bill is that it changed the original phrasing from “willfully and knowingly” to just “knowingly.”
In the case of NSEE zones at the NATO Summit [as it's been interpreted by legal organizations, as the new law has yet to be applied] all that is required to charge you with a federal crime is to be in the area, you don’t need to know your actions are illegal.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Check out the ACLU’s recommendations here.
What H.R. 347 could mean for NATO protestors is if they are in a restricted area/zone doing any of the below activities, they can charged with a federal crime:
(1) Enter or remain in one of these zones without “lawful authority”;
(2) Engage in “disorderly or disruptive conduct” in or near one of these zones that “impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government activities or official functions” (with intend to impede or disrupt those activities or functions);
(3) Block or otherwise impede an entrance or exit to one of these zones (with intend to disrupt government activities or official functions); or
(4) Engage in any act of physical violence against person or property in any restricted zone.
Here’s the kicker that isn’t discussed much – “or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be punished.”
Conspire, that’s a broad word.
So, how will you know if you’re in a restricted area?
“The term ‘restricted buildings or grounds’ means any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area– of a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting; or of a building or grounds so restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.”
Theoretically, these areas will have posted notices and/or be blocked off. Lake Michigan will be a restricted area, hopefully boat owners are aware of this. As will McCormick Place (site of the summit) and large areas around, and intermittent times for Kennedy Expressway, Lake Shore Drive, parts of South Side, Solider Field, Art Institute, and so on. If you see groups of heavily armed troops, or large men in flawless suits with black sunglasses, find another route.
If you were considering a protest outside the President’s hotel, you should probably reconsider. And given that broad ‘conspire to do so’ part, you should probably not communicate any intent to do so, even jokingly. Remember those Brits that were detained over Twitter jokes?
Use common sense, be aware of your surroundings, and stay with crowds. Saying a Hail Mary or two wouldn’t hurt either, given the lack of clarity about if, or how, H.R. 347 will be enforced during the summit.
Bottom line – be smart.