But whether it’s neutrally enforced is a separate question.
Breitbart captured a few minutes of the confrontation with police:
DC police arrest peaceful pro-life activists who wrote on the sidewalk in chalk "black pre-born lives matter" outside a Planned Parenthood. pic.twitter.com/oamI4u9Fhs
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) August 1, 2020
Washington is the same city where the mayor recently ordered “Black Lives Matter” painted on the asphalt of a street near the White House to signal the city’s support for the movement. Importantly, she also allowed protesters to paint their own message nearby. Muriel Bowser can have a strict or lax policy against private citizens writing on public spaces as she sees fit but she can’t discriminate based on viewpoint in deciding how to apply it.
Is that what the cops did here?
Ever since Bowser commissioned the painting of “Black Lives Matter” on 16th Street NW near the White House in June, activists across the country have demanded the right to paint their own messages. City officials have conceded in some cases, allowing protesters in the District, for example, to paint “Defund the police” next to Bowser’s original declaration…
Representatives of the group led by the Students for Life of America and the Frederick Douglass Foundation said they received a D.C. police permit to hold an event and were told by an officer that he would not prevent them from writing on the asphalt…
The group said it also sent a letter to Bowser requesting permission to paint on the street, writing, “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.”
The mayor did not respond to the letter, according to Kristi Hamrick, a spokeswoman for the group.
The group is planning to sue her on First Amendment grounds. David French notes the absurdity of hauling in a pair of kids for chalking — not even painting, just chalking — at a moment when BLM-associated protesters across the country are defacing buildings and monuments in more durable ways:
Why arrest anyone for mere chalking? Especially on a public sidewalk?
— David French (@DavidAFrench) August 2, 2020
The word “broadcasts” is well chosen, as this is ultimately about public perception. We’ll have to wait for more details to see if SLA failed to follow proper procedure somehow in applying for a painting/chalking permit, but if the cops wanted to send a “broken windows”-style message about not defacing public property, it’s interesting that a group that’s far afield of the District’s politics was the one that was made an example of. Being hard-asses about chalking amid a national wave of politically driven vandalism is less apt to make people think “boy, these cops mean business about not defacing public property” than “I can’t make any sense of how these laws are being applied. It seems completely arbitrary.”
This wasn’t the only politically suspect double standard practiced by Bowser’s government this week. Just the News noticed an unusual exemption from D.C.’s quarantine rules granted to residents who attended John Lewis’s funeral in Atlanta:
Under current District of Columbia rules, all of those individuals would normally be required to self-quarantine for two weeks upon returning to D.C. City Mayor Muriel Bowser’s recent quarantine order dictates that any individual traveling to a “high-risk area” for “non-essential” reasons must self-quarantine for 14 days upon entering the District.
The entire state of Georgia is among the locations deemed “high-risk” by the mayor’s office. But a spokeswoman for Bowser confirmed that attendees of the funeral would not have to follow the mayor’s quarantine rules.
“Government activity is essential, and the Capitol of the United States is exempt from the Mayor’s Order,” Bowser Press Secretary Susana Castillo told Just the News on Friday.
Asked if Lewis’s funeral constituted “government activity,” Castillo responded: “Yes.”
Castillo confirmed that all other residents traveling to high-risk areas for funerals would still need to follow the 14-day quarantine rules upon their return. You can understand why D.C. might feel obliged to make an exception for true “government activity”: It’d be impossible for members of Congress to conduct public business on the Hill if they had to isolate for weeks every time they traveled from their home districts to Washington. The bar for granting special exceptions from pandemic precautions should be as high as we can make it, but “governing America” clears it.
Lewis’s funeral wasn’t true “government activity,” though. No one’s attendance was required in order to carry out public business. Everyone who was there should have been expected to follow the 14-day rule after arriving back in Washington as a matter of basic safety. Exempting them is an isolated instance of the same broad double standard followed by Democratic politicians and woke public-health experts during the mass protests the country saw in June. If the powers that be agree with your politics, you’re given a pass on social-distancing rules designed to prevent the virus from spreading. If they don’t, you aren’t. If your cause is BLM, you can gather in giant numbers and maybe even paint your slogans on city streets without consequence. If your cause is something else, particularly something disfavored by local leaders, you might find yourself thrown in a squad car for writing your opposition to baby-killing in chalk on a sidewalk somewhere.
Here’s more of the arrest via the Daily Caller.
BREAKING: MPD arrested pro-life students for writing “PREBORN BLACK LIVES MATTER” in chalk outside a DC abortion clinic. MPD tells me the students were arrested for “the Defacing of Private/Public Property.”
— Mary Margaret Olohan (@MaryMargOlohan) August 1, 2020