Despite having a permit from police, two Students for Life of America (SFLA) activists were arrested Aug. 1 while attempting to write “Black Pre-born Lives Matter” in sidewalk chalk outside of a Planned Parenthood in Washington, D.C.
Ever since Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser commissioned the painting of “Black Lives Matter” on 16th Street NW near the White House in June, activists across the country have requested the opportunity to paint their own messages.
On July 20, SFLA and The Frederick Douglass Foundation leaders sent Bowser a letter requesting permission to paint a pro-life message “on the 1200 block of 4th Street NE at 6 o’clock in the morning on August 1.”
“Your original decision to paint ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the street is government speech,” the letter reasoned. “However, your decision to allow protestors to paint ‘Defund the Police’ opened the streets up as a public forum. You are not permitted to discriminate on the basis of viewpoint in making determinations relating to public assemblies in public fora.”
Although Bowser did not respond to the letter, SFLA did receive a permit from the Metropolitan Police Department to paint their message.
“We did reach out to the city for permission for all the permits, and we were also told that as the mayor had opened up the city for expression by allowing speech about defunding the police, this is permissible,” SFLA spokesperson Kristi Hamrick said.
According to SFLA, their team members arrived at the specified location on the morning of Aug. 1 to find police waiting for them outside the Planned Parenthood facility.
“After applying and receiving our permit for this event today, after being told by the Metropolitan Police that the mayor has … ‘opened a Pandora’s box’ by painting public streets, we arrived to find six police cars threatening to arrest our team and students if they painted, even using the [tempera] paint we bought that the police department specifically requested,” explained SFLA President Kristan Hawkins. “When we asked if we could at least use sidewalk chalk to chalk our anti-violence message on the streets, the police threatened to arrest us.”
When SFLA staffer Warner DePriest and college student Erica Caporaletti began sidewalk chalking anyway, they were both arrested and charged with trespassing on and defacing private property—despite it being a public sidewalk.
“The next place Mayor Bowser will see us will be in the court room,” Hawkins said in a statement. “Because Students for Life will sue the city of Washington, D.C., for violating our First Amendment rights to free speech and expression today.”
“The Students for Life and the Pro-Life Generation will not stop,” she added. “Today, across America, Planned Parenthood will end 360 black lives. And we will no longer be silent. We will no longer politely wait for you to acknowledge our rights to free speech and expression.”
Photo: Courtesy of Students for Life of America