Federal Appeals Court Rules D.C. Officials ‘Selectively’ Enforced Defacement Laws against Pro-Lifers

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A federal appeals court has decided that Washington D.C. officials “selectively” enforced a defacement law when arresting pro-life activists in 2020.

“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. We, therefore, reverse the dismissal of the Foundation’s First Amendment claim and remand for further proceedings,” reads the opinion.

In 2020, protestors gathered in the Washington, D.C. streets in support of the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

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

However, when pro-life activists joined protestors and wrote “Black Pre-Born Lives Matter” on a public sidewalk, two pro-life supporters were arrested that same summer.

Students for Life of America president Kristen Hawkins said the group applied for and received from police a permit to assemble. She claimed she also requested permission from District Mayor Muriel Bowser to paint the message but didn’t receive an answer, National Review reports.

“Washington officials can’t censor messages they disagree with. The right to free speech is for everyone, and we’re pleased the D.C. Circuit agreed that the Frederick Douglass Foundation and Students for Life should be able to exercise their constitutionally protected freedom to peacefully share their views the same as anyone else,” said VP of the Center for Life and Regulatory Practice with Alliance Defending Freedom Erin Hawley.

“Every American deserves for their voice to be heard as they engage in important cultural and political issues of the day,” she added.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images-Brian A Jackson

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.

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