Featured Image

WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday allowed a lawsuit to proceed alleging that the city of Washington, D.C. discriminated against pro-lifers as it favored Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters in the enforcement of its defacement ordinance.

The ruling is a response to a lawsuit filed by The Frederick Douglass Foundation and Students for Life of America against the city after pro-life activists Warner DePriest and Erica Caporaletti were arrested on Aug. 1, 2020, for writing the words “Black Pre-Born Lives Matter” with chalk on a public sidewalk outside a Planned Parenthood facility. 

The lawsuit complained that Washington, D.C. violated the pro-lifers’ First Amendment rights through “viewpoint discrimination” since city police arrested them for writing a pro-life message with chalk but had allowed the city to be widely vandalized in permanent paint with BLM messages just prior.

The appeals court ruling overturns a dismissal of the lawsuit by a lower district court, agreeing with the plaintiffs’ complaint that Washington, D.C. committed viewpoint discrimination.

“The First Amendment prohibits discrimination on the basis of viewpoint irrespective of the government’s motive. We hold the Foundation has plausibly alleged the District discriminated on the basis of viewpoint in the selective enforcement of its defacement ordinance,” the court wrote. 

The court noted that after the highly publicized death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, Washington, D.C. “all but abandoned enforcement of the defacement ordinance during the Black Lives Matter protests, creating a de facto categorical exemption for individuals who marked ‘Black Lives Matter’ messages on public and private property.”

“Over several weeks, the protesters covered streets, sidewalks, and storefronts with paint and chalk. The markings were ubiquitous and in open violation of the District’s defacement ordinance, yet none of the protesters were arrested,” the court decision observed.

As an example, the court cited the painting of the “street mural” reading “Black Lives Matter = Defund the Police,” during which “police officers watched as the alteration took place and did nothing to stop it,” despite the fact that the BLM activists had not obtained a permit or consent otherwise to do so.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life, which organized the pro-life protest, explained shortly after the incident on Tucker Carlson Tonight that after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had allowed “Defund the Police” graffiti in permanent paint around the city, her group had requested permission to likewise paint the streets with “Black Preborn Lives Matter” messages, “because now the mayor has opened up the streets for public expression.”

According to Hawkins, they didn’t hear back from the mayor, and the police told them to use temporary paint. 

The day of the arrest, Students for Life spokesperson Kristi Hamrick shared with The Washington Times, “We were told verbally that we would not be prevented from painting and what kind of paint to buy.”

Hawkins told Carlson that despite this green light by police, the city soon changed course, as six police cars awaited the pro-lifers at Planned Parenthood the next day.

The federal appeals court remanded the case on Tuesday for further proceedings.