Two pro-life activists who were arrested for chalking “black pre-born lives matter” outside of a D.C.-based Planned Parenthood will be represented by Alliance Defending Freedom.
Alliance Defending Freedom tweeted the announcement, saying: “UPDATE: Pro-life groups censored for sidewalk chalking appeal their case. ADF attorneys represent Frederick Douglass Foundation and @StudentsforLife.”
Prior to the protest and the activists’ subsequent arrest, the groups applied for permits and even wrote D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser a letter expressing their intent with the gathering. The letter said, in part:
“Having opened the streets of your city for public expression, Students for Life of America (SFLA) and The Frederick Douglass Foundation (FDF) requests the opportunity to add our voices to those concerned about the treatment of people of color in America. Black Lives do matter, born and preborn, as too many people are lost in America today from causes that should be addressed and prevented for their disproportionate impact on minority communities….”
Upon arrival, the groups were met by D.C. police who informed them that they would not be permitted to chalk on the street or on the sidewalk. Undeterred, two in the group, Warner DePriest and Erica Caporaletti, began writing the message on the sidewalk with children’s chalk. They were promptly arrested.
The arresting charges were for trespassing and defacement. These charges are questionable because the activists were writing in removable chalk that would be gone after the next rainstorm, and they were writing on public sidewalks, not on private property.
One of the activists arrested, Warner DePriest, said,
“More than a year later, the charges against me still have not been dropped and I am being forced to wait for my day in court while this case is hanging over my head. If pro-life Americans can’t use their free speech rights, they don’t really have free speech rights.”
Earlier in the summer before the arrests were made, BLM and other organizations painted “Black Lives Matter” on a street near the White House, as was authorized by Mayor Bowser. Believing that Mayor Bowser would permit the same use of First Amendment expression, these pro-life groups gathered to chalk “Black Pre-Born Lives Matter” on the street in front of Planned Parenthood.
Frederick Douglass Foundation Virginia Chapter President J.R. Gurley said,
“The city shouldn’t allow some groups to participate in the public forum and shun others from doing so just because city officials disagree with their viewpoint. The First Amendment protects our right to peacefully share our pro-life message in Washington, D.C. without fear of unjust government punishment.”
Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins issued her own statement:
“Our students courageously speak out on behalf of society’s most vulnerable citizens—the unborn—even when faced with government discrimination and hostility. The Constitution guarantees the right to peacefully express our views in the public square; the First Amendment prohibits the government from picking and choosing whose speech to allow.”
If organizations like BLM are able to shut down major streets in the nation’s capital to voice their opinions and exercise their First Amendment rights, anyone should be able to do it, whether or not the mayor agrees with their message.
These pro-life groups were peacefully gathering to affirm that black lives do indeed matter, but so do their unborn children, as black babies are aborted at a greater number than any other race.
This statement, which was meant to encourage expectant mothers considering an abortion to change their minds, was not allowed to be expressed by those who don’t see abortion as snuffing out an innocent life.
Instead, abortion is encouraged in our culture. In certain circles, it is seen as a badge of honor, merely a choice with no consequence, but we know it is so much more than that.
If Washington D.C., or any city for that matter, is going to allow political expression in their streets for one group, they need to allow it for everyone.