Posted on August 15, 2023

D.C. Enforced Defacement Law against Pro-Lifers While Letting BLM Protesters Walk, Court Rules

Caroline Downey, National Review, August 14, 2023

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that the city of Washington, D.C., disproportionately penalized pro-life advocates and showed leniency toward Black Lives Matter protesters for defacement offenses.

“In the summer of 2020, thousands of protesters flooded the streets of the District to proclaim ‘Black Lives Matter,’” the court wrote in its decision. “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.”

“During the same summer, District police officers arrested two pro-life advocates in a smaller protest for chalking ‘Black Pre-Born Lives Matter’ on a public sidewalk. The organizers of the smaller protest, the Frederick Douglass Foundation and Students for Life of America (collectively ‘the Foundation’), sued,” the opinion said.

The lawsuit, filed in November 2020 by religious liberty legal advocacy non-profit Alliance Defending Freedom, alleged that D.C. police discriminated against the pro-life groups by prohibiting them from chalking messages on the sidewalk. BLM protesters were permitted to chalk their own messages without punishment during the summer riots following the murder of George Floyd, the lawsuit argued.


“The First Amendment prohibits discrimination on the basis of viewpoint irrespective of the government’s motive. {snip}” the court wrote.