The new bill modifies a 1971 law that restricted entering or blocking public areas cordoned off by the Secret Service while a protected individual is passing through, or during major public events like the Super Bowl or party nominating conventions. Violators can face up to a year in jail; if they’re carrying a dangerous weapon, it’s ten.
Of course, it’s probably a good thing that the police can arrest strangers with guns who try to get a little too close to the president. But more recently, this law has been used to shunt protestors at major political events into “free speech zones,” isolated from the crowds—and cameras—that might give their constitutionally-protected demonstrations some heft. Another issue is that the Department of Homeland Security has fairly wide latitude in what areas it can declare off-limits.
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