Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser punished demonstrators for writing “Black Preborn Lives Matter” on a street because they were expressing a pro-life sentiment, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom Denise Harle told the Daily Caller News Foundation last week.
“The right to free speech is for everyone, not just those who the government agrees with and not just for those in power,” Harle told the DCNF.
“The government of D.C., the mayor and the city essentially punished Students for Life and the Frederick Douglas Foundation for their free speech because it was pro-life.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is representing the Frederick Douglass Foundation and Students for Life in a lawsuit against Bowser and the District of Columbia following the arrests of two Students for Life members in August.
The Metropolitan Police Department arrested 29-year-old Warner DePriest and 22-year-old Erica Caporaletti for writing pro-life slogans, including “Black Preborn Lives Matter,” in chalk on the road in front of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic.
The arrests came after Bowser commissioned the “Black Lives Matter” slogan to be painted on the streets of D.C. earlier in the summer. The mural included the D.C. flag, on which activists later painted “Defund the Police.”
Bowser’s government removed the D.C. flag but allowed “Defund the Police” to remain, The Washington Post reported.
Bowser’s office has declined to comment on the lawsuit to the DCNF.
Harle pointed out to the DCNF that Bowser was “quite fine” with the Black Lives Matter slogan emblazoned on the streets of D.C., emphasizing that “the government has to answer for viewpoint discrimination.”
“It was a really obvious example that D.C. was discriminating against the pro-life speech by allowing other voices to be heard with other messages, but silencing and punishing Students for Life,” Harle said.
Students for Life and the Frederick Douglas Foundation are seeking an affirmation that the First Amendment protects the free speech of all, Harle told the DCNF.
“Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences are essential when we’re living in a pluralistic society with a lot of people with different viewpoints,” she continued.
“We have to have that freedom, and freedom for one group has to mean freedom for other groups as well.”
Harle concluded: “I think if people set the abortion issue aside and understand what the bottom line is here, this is just a pure question of free speech and whether Americans are able to exercise their speech rights or whether they have to be in fear that someone in power might not like what they have to say, and then they’re going to end up in jail.”
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