On November 18, the Frederick Douglass Foundation and Students for Life of America filed a lawsuit in federal court stating that the Washington D.C. police discriminated against their group’s pro-life views by preventing them from chalking pro-life messages on the public sidewalk.
Other groups, however, have not been targeted for drawing with sidewalk chalk on the streets. The lawsuit that Alliance for Freedom filed states that, “The District of Columbia, like many American jurisdictions, prohibits the defacement of public property… While such laws are intended to prohibit criminal activity, they may not be used as a tool to silence disfavored speech. But this is precisely what the District and the Defendants have done.” It claims that the arrest of the pro-lifers who were chalking pro-life messages was a direct violation of free speech.
This arrest of two pro-life individuals took place a few months ago. The circumstances surrounding this event proceeded as follows: On August 1, 2020 a group of pro-life students were writing messages on the sidewalk outside of a D.C. Planned Parenthood. They had even applied for and received a permit to do this, and yet when the police saw them they arrested two of the individuals. Students for Life staff member DePriest was among them.
Regarding his arrest DePriest explained: “It’s a scary thing to [be] arrested for something that I’ve done so often, which is to simply share my conviction that abortion is a human rights issue of our day costing the loss of black lives and harming women in this and every community.” He adds, “Our free speech rights are meaningless if we can’t use them, and women need to know that we are here to support and help them.“
Students for Life announced that they would not let this incident go, and partnering with the Fredrick Douglas Foundation and Alliance for Freedom, they have kept their word these few months later.
“The city shouldn’t be able to silence and punish us for expressing ideas that it doesn’t agree with,” said J.R. Gurley, Frederick Douglass Foundation’s Virginia Chapter President. “Government officials can’t discriminate against peaceful displays on the basis of our beliefs about abortion when they have allowed other groups the same avenues to express their beliefs.”
The team is determined to win this lawsuit because they believe they have been discriminated against. It is very admirable that they are standing up to this because over the past year there have been many, many cases of discrimination when pro-life efforts come head-to-head with the Black Lives Matter movement. If the United States is to remain committed to promoting the freedom of speech, it must retain the freedom of speech for all, and not just the favored or more significant groups.