Two pro-life college students were arrested over the weekend during a peaceful demonstration in which they attempted to paint a clear message on the street outside a Washington, DC Planned Parenthood abortion clinic: “Black preborn lives matter.”
Just weeks after DC Mayor Muriel Bowser renamed a street near the White House “Black Lives Matter Plaza” commissioned “BLACK LIVES MATTER” to be painted on the street there, Students for Life of America (SFLA) activists say they secured permission from the city to paint their message on public property outside the Planned Parenthood Whitehill Moses Center with washable paint.
Upon their arrival, however, the students are seen in a video taken early on Saturday being threatened with arrest as they prepared to paint.
SFLA Strategic Partnerships Advisor Warner DePriest and SFLA student leader Erica Caporaletti from Towson University were then arrested on the scene.
According to Fox News, SFLA said it applied for an event permit that included a request to paint “Black Preborn Lives Matter” on the street outside of the facility. The organization claims that MPD granted them a permit to gather at Planned Parenthood and, in a separate conversation, verbally told them they would not be prevented from painting their message on the street.
MPD public affairs specialist Alaina Gertz, however, told Fox that the department “did not issue a permit to put a message on the street. MPD issues permits to assemble.” Gertz also stated that the permit SFLA received explicitly said that “marking or painting the street is not permitted.”
Gertz also said that the MPD didn’t have “any information to corroborate the statement that the group was told they would not be stopped from painting.”
SFLA spokesperson Kristi Hamrick contradicts Gertz, arguing that both SFLA’s permit request and a separate letter to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser stated the group’s intent was to paint on the street.
“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.”
Bowser “will be hearing from Students for Life’s attorneys about these unconstitutional efforts to limit speech to government-approved topics,” Hawkins went on. “Today is National Pro-Life Generation Sidewalk Day, meaning that thousands of pro-life students are in front of Planned Parenthood and other abortion vendor operation[s] praying and sharing the message that every child deserves hope and a future and that every mom deserves and will receive help.”
“Having opened the streets of your city for public expression, Students for Life of America requests the opportunity to add our voices to those concerned about how people of color are treated in America,” a letter to the mayor about the event reads.
“Black [l]ives do matter, born and preborn, as too many people are lost in America today from causes that should be addressed and prevented for their disproportionate impact on minority communities,” the letter continues. “Your original decision to paint ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the street is government speech. 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 [forums]. The message of the pre-born will not be silenced.”
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