Two pro-life groups are suing Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser after the city sent police to prevent the group from chalking a slogan on a street, even though “Black Lives Matter” and “Defund the Police” murals in permanent paint were permitted on other streets.
The joint lawsuit (pdf) was filed Nov. 18 in a federal court by Frederick Douglass Foundation and Students for Life of America, who sought to paint “Black Pre-Born Lives Matter” on the street outside of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic.
According to the lawsuit, the groups were prompted to paint their own message on a street after the city in June commissioned a 35-foot-tall “Black Lives Matter” mural that stretches two blocks. Shortly after the mural’s completion, another one reading “Defund the Police” was painted on another street.
When the pro-life activists showed up on Aug. 1 for a rally and to write their message in chalk, they were told by police that they’d be arrested. Two members of Students for Life of America then proceeded to chalk the sidewalk, and were subsequently arrested for “defacing public property.”
“City officials were not content to stop a message in temporary paint,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said in a statement. “Two students were arrested trying to express in chalk what they were not allowed to say in paint. That kind of viewpoint discrimination cannot be allowed to continue unchallenged.”
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative law group representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, argued that Washington violated the First Amendment by simultaneously promoting speech it liked and suppressing speech it didn’t.
“The government can’t discriminate against certain viewpoints by allowing some voices to be heard while silencing others,” said ADF legal counsel Elissa Graves. “Because of the city’s actions, Frederick Douglass Foundation and Students for Life of America weren’t able to participate in the public square as other groups have. The First Amendment prohibits the government from picking and choosing whose speech to allow.”
Vice President Mike Pence in August voiced his support of the two arrested students, saying that “the radical left wants to silence pro-life on Americans.”
“A group of students were arrested for writing ‘Black Preborn Lives Matter’ outside a DC Planned Parenthood clinic,” said Pence at a church in Florida. “I mean, the radical left celebrates those who defend abortion, but they would prosecute those who stand for life.”