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Anti-abortion groups sue D.C. after being stopped from painting 'Black Pre-Born Lives Matter' mural

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The groups argue the city government is using public property laws to 'silence disfavored speech'

Sophie Mann

November 20, 2020

Two anti-abortion groups have filed a lawsuit against the District of Columbia in federal court after the municipality denied them the right to paint an anti-abortion message on a public street over the summer.

The issue arose following the city's sanctioning of Black Lives Matter Plaza, across which "Black Lives Matter" was painted in yellow in June. The Frederick Douglass Foundation and Students for Life of America wanted to paint "Black Pre-Born Lives Matter" on the street outside of a Planned Parenthood site near Capitol Hill. However, they were not explicitly granted permission by the city to do so.

The groups' suit claims that a member of the Metropolitan Police Department told them that officers would not be able to stop them from painting or drawing their slogan. According to the suit, the officer told them that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had "opened Pandora's Box," and no one would be able to stop them.

But on August 1, when anti-abortion activists arrived for a rally, police officers told them that they would be arrested for writing their message – even in chalk. Two members of Students for Life of America were in fact arrested for chalking. 

The suit, which is being brought by two Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys, claims that the city selectively applied its laws against the defacement of public property "as a tool to silence disfavored speech." 


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