In the police brutality thread below, commenter Stef said:

Wait till Congress passes a general equivalent of the FACE (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) act, which basically makes any non-violent direct action in the USA a federal felony.

The relevant component of FACE: any physical attempt, however nonviolent, to block access to abortion clinics is a federal crime. According to Wikipedia, this is what you cannot do at an abortion clinic or a place of worship:

  • Blocking a person’s access to the entrance of a facility
  • Impairing cars from entering and/or exiting a facility
  • Physically stopping people as they are trying to walk toward an entrance or through a parking lot
  • Making it difficult or dangerous to get in and/or out of a facility
  • Trespassing on the property of a facility
According to the FBI’s definition:
This statute prohibits (1) the use of force or threat of force or physical obstruction, to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere with or attempt to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person or any class of persons from obtaining or providing reproductive health services; (2) the use of force or threat of force or physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate, or interfere with or attempt to injure, intimidate, or interfere with any person lawfully exercising or seeking to exercise the First Amendment right of religious freedom at a place of religious worship; or (3) intentionally damages or destroys the property of a facility, or attempts to do so, because such facility provides reproductive health services or intentionally damages or destroys the property of a place of religious worship. This statute does not apply to speech or expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment. Non obstructive demonstrations are legal.

Punishment varies from a fine or imprisonment for an offense involving exclusively a nonviolent physical obstruction, the fine shall be not more than $10,000 and the length of imprisonment shall be up to six months, or both, for the first offense: and the fine shall, notwithstanding section 3571, be up to $25,000 and the length of imprisonment shall be not more than 18 months, or both, for a subsequent offense; and if bodily injury results, the length of imprisonment shall be up to ten years, and if death results, it shall be for any term of years or for life.

So, if FACE were to be expanded, sit-ins of the sort OWS has been undertaking would be serious federal crimes. FACE has been upheld in federal court, and the Supreme Court has declined to hear appeals, which means that it’s constitutional. The principle has been established that nonviolent sit-ins are federal crimes outside abortion clinics and churches. Aside from political concerns, what’s to keep them from expanding the coverage to include all nonviolent sit-ins that keep people from going about their business at banks, parks, campuses, and so forth? Something to think about.