It’s been nearly a month since two groups promoting support for police officers requested a permit to paint a Blue Lives Matter mural on a street in New York City. As time went on with no answer from City Hall, the two groups publicly stated that their patience was growing thin and they might be forced to take Mayor Bill de Blasio to court over the question. They explained that time was of the essence because we are currently in a moment where the debate is gaining serious traction across the nation. But Hizzoner is still refusing to grant the permit, so earlier this week the lawsuit was kicked into gear. (NY Post)
A pair of pro-cop groups are suing Mayor Bill de Blasio for being denied a Blue Lives Matter mural akin to the one Black Lives Matter had splashed across 5th Avenue, The Post has learned.
The lawsuit, filed late Monday by Blue Lives Matter NYC and Standing up for NYC in the Southern District of New York, accuses de Blasio and Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg of violating the groups’ First Amendment rights by allowing “city property to be used by private speakers” — yet forbidding a similar mural supportive of cops.
“The ‘Black Lives Matter’ message is highly political and is generally understood by the public to be and support a general anti-police message, include some extreme measures as defending the police and ending police activity,” the suit reads.
In more “normal” times, I wouldn’t have given this lawsuit much of a chance of succeeding. There are long-established laws regarding defacing public roadways or hindering the ability of drivers to follow traffic directions indicated by the usual traffic lines, arrows and instructions placed on the pavement. In that context, the city would be well within their rights to refuse any permit request for such displays. But those rules have gone out the window this year. The court will need to see the request in the context of other recent events and signals sent by City Hall.
Bill de Blasio really brought all of this on himself. Not only did he approve the painting of a gigantic Black Lives Matter mural on 5th Avenue, but he went out and helped paint it himself. He later revealed that there was never a permit issued for that mural, either. Standing in sharp contrast is the artist who pained a thin blue line on the median in front of one police precinct station who was then ordered to remove it by officials. And that one wasn’t even on the street surface.
The Public Transportation Commissioner has taken the Mayor’s side, saying “the city is able to make unilateral decisions on individual requests.” But I somehow doubt that the courts will be very sympathetic to that argument given everything else that has transpired. The Mayor opened the door to allowing the streets to be used as a public forum for free speech writ large in brightly colored paint. He then began issuing capricious decisions as to who could or couldn’t participate in that debate forum. If there’s any sanity left in the world (admittedly, a very big “if”) I would expect the courts to either order all of the murals to be immediately removed from the streets of the city and the existing codes to be enforced, or to instruct the Mayor to begin issuing permits to all who wish to participate. Given the historical ban on such displays on roadways, I would lean toward the former more than the latter.
None of that will make the debate over support for the police go away, however, As Karen reported earlier, one of New York City’s largest police unions issued their first-ever endorsement for the presidency this week, backing Donald Trump. This was obviously done because of his vocal support for law enforcement while so many other politicians are working to defund or abolish the police. You can expect to see plenty more of this between now and the election.