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Pro-lifers arrested for chalk message win appeal

Pro-life Protest in DC

Rena Schild | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 08/21/23

The court of appeals found that their First Amendment rights were infringed upon when they were arrested and others weren't.

A pair of protesters who were arrested in 2020 for writing a pro-life message in chalk on the sidewalk have been vindicated in a Washington, D.C., court of appeals. The message they wrote was “Black Preborn Lives Matter,” before the police arrested them, but they have successfully argued that the impermanent chalk message was protected under freedom of speech and expression. 

The appeals court ruled on August 15 that the Frederick Douglass Foundation (FDF) and Students for Life of America (SFLA) – two organizations that represented the defendants – had “plausibly demonstrated” that the police had violated the protesters’ First Amendment rights. The message was written on the sidewalk in front of a D.C. Planned Parenthood building. 

One of the main arguments of the appeal was that authorities did not take action against BLM protesters who also wrote on the ground and sides of buildings in chalk. These activists, however, also went beyond the washable chalk to use paint for their slogans. The ruling of the court conceded that the government “may not play favorites in a public forum — permitting some messages and prohibiting others.”

They called the arrest “selective enforcement” due to the rampant breaking of “defacement ordinance.” According to Catholic World Report, all demonstrators present on the day were informed that they would be arrested for “painted or chalked” messages on public property. Once this was stated, they could not arrest one group and not the other without it being considered discrimination. 

With the reversal of this ruling, the defendants are now allowed to seek restitution for this breach of their First Amendment rights by suing the police. SFLA president Kristan Hawkins hailed the decision of the court, stating: 

“Viewpoint discrimination is un-American, and, as the case proceeds, we look forward to learning more about how D.C. officials picked winners and losers in their enforcement,” Hawkins said. “Free speech rights you’re afraid to use don’t really exist, and we will keep fighting for the rights of our students to stand up for the preborn and their mothers, and against the predatory abortion industry led by Planned Parenthood.”

Read more at Catholic World Report.

Tags:
JusticePro-lifeUnited States
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