MORGAN ZEGERS: Court rules IN FAVOR of Pro-Life Activists, finding DC 'selectively enforced' defacement laws in wake of BLM riots

Tuesday, a federal appeals court found that Washington D.C. "selectively enforced" its defacement law based on the activist groups perpetrating the crime.

The court ruled 3-0 in favor of the pro-life organization, Students for Life America, and public policy and educational organization, the Frederick Douglass Foundation, who filed a complaint after two students were arrested for attempting to write "Black Pre-Born Lives Matter" in washable chalk on a public sidewalk. The court also reversed a lower court’s dismissal of the organizations’ initial complaint.

In 2020, amid the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests that erupted across the country, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser commissioned a mural reading "Black Lives Matter" in permanent yellow paint, which stretched "the length of an entire city block, extending the width of the street."

Not long after, BLM protestors painted a near-identical mural that read "Defund the Police," in bright, permanent, yellow paint. Court documents show that this mural was removed in mid-August because of roadwork on the street and that therefore it was "permitted to remain on the street for over two months, and was only removed due to planned road construction."

"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 wrote in its ruling. The court continued by explaining that "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 groups argued that both their First Amendment rights were violated, and claimed that city authorities "selectively enforced" the defacement ordinances when only select murals were authorized, and by allowing several BLM-related defacements of city property to remain, all of which the court ultimately agreed with.

"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 concluded.

"Pro-life Americans are one step closer to free speech in the District of Columbia as a 3-0 panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals rules in favor of Students for Life, the Frederick Douglass Foundation, & pro-life advocates who were arrested for sidewalk chalking," Students for Life America wrote following the ruling.

This piece first appeared at TPUSA.

Image: Title: Zegers BLM
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