Pro-Lifers Win Discrimination Lawsuit in DC

( – A US federal appeals court ruled on August 15 that Washington, DC discriminated against pro-life activists while favoring Black Live Matters demonstrators when enforcing its defacement ordinance. The ruling came as a response to a lawsuit filed by Students for Life of America and The Frederick Douglass Foundation against the capital city, following the arrest of two pro-lifers on August 1. These were Erica Caporaletti and Warner DePriest, who wrote the words “Black Pre-Born Lives Matter” on a sidewalk outside a Planned Parenthood center.

The lawsuit complained that the city violated the pro-life activists’ First Amendment rights, as the Washington police arrested them for writing this message but previously allowed the city to be vandalized with BLM messages. The appeals court ruling reverses the dismissal of the lawsuit, which was issued by a lower district court, concurring with the plaintiff’s complaint that the city engaged in viewpoint discrimination.

The court wrote that the First Amendment prohibits discrimination based on perspective, regardless of the government’s intention. It also noted that the Foundation’s claim, alleging that the District engaged in viewpoint-based discrimination through the “selective” enforcement of the defacement ordinance, was “credible.”

The court also pointed out that after the death of George Floyd in 2020, Washington, DC “abandoned” defacement ordinance enforcement during the BLM protests. It also said this created a “de facto categorical exemption” for demonstrators who marked BLM messages on private and public properties all around the city.

The court’s decision explained that BLM demonstrators covered sidewalks, storefronts, and streets over several weeks with “paint and chalk.” It also said that even when the markings were in “open violation” of the defacement ordinance of the District, not a single demonstrator was arrested.

As one example, the court cited the “street mural” painting that called for the police’s defunding, during which police officers in the city refused to stop any of the protesters even when none of them had permission to do this.

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