Two pro-life groups sued Washington, D.C. this week, alleging that the city discriminated against them by denying permission for the groups to paint messages on the city’s streets after it allowed murals reading “Black Lives Matter” and “Defund the Police” to be painted on thoroughfares.
The Frederick Douglass Foundation and Students for Life of America sought to paint murals outside of the Planned Parenthood Carole Whitehill Moses Center this summer with the message “Black Pre-Born Lives Matter.”
The city, however, refused to grant a permit to the two groups, even though they had allowed leftist activists to draw their own murals.
The groups then reached out to the Metropolitan Police Department, which gave the students verbal permission to paint the message on the street with temporary paint.
But when the pro-life groups showed up outside the Planned Parenthood, several law enforcement officers threatened to arrest them if they used paint or chalk anywhere near the property.
At least two students were arrested for defying the officers’ orders.
“The city shouldn’t be able to silence and punish us for expressing ideas that it doesn’t agree with,” Frederick Douglass Foundation Virginia Chapter President J.R. Gurley said in a statement. “Government officials can’t discriminate against peaceful displays on the basis of our beliefs about abortion when they have allowed other groups the same avenues to express their beliefs. If the mayor allows other messages to be painted and chalked, we should be able to express our views in the same manner without fear of unjust government punishment.”
By denying pro-life groups the same city permits they had given to other groups, Washington, D.C. officials engaged in “blatant viewpoint discrimination” that clearly violates the Constitution, said Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Elissa Graves.
“The government can’t discriminate against certain viewpoints by allowing some voices to be heard while silencing others,” Graves said in a statement. “The First Amendment prohibits the government from picking and choosing whose speech to allow.”