A group of activists sued Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser this week over her decision to paint “Black Lives Matter” down two blocks of 16th Street, which leads to the White House, saying she violated the First Amendment and showed favoritism to “the Black Lives Matter cult orthodoxy.”
The lawsuit, filed in federal court on Wednesday, complained Ms. Bowser’s move, as well as her decision to rename a nearby street “Black Lives Matter Plaza,” came at the taxpayers’ expense but showed a preference for one faith — or belief — over others.
The main argument in the 51-page complaint filed at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is that Ms. Bowser is violating the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution by supporting one orthodoxy over others.
“The Black Lives Matter banner conveys that black people are the favored race of the city of DC, which is of course a racist contention floated by a racist Democrat who persistently refuses to think logically,” the lawsuit said.
Pastor Rich Penkoski, identified as a “street preacher” is the named plaintiff in the case. He’s joined by Chris Sevier, a former judge advocate general, and Tex Christopher, a D.C. lobbyist.
The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit.
The three plaintiffs asked the court to order Ms. Bowser to alternate other banners down the street so she is not showing favoritism to a preferred group.
The first suggested banner is “Blue Lives Matter” to honor law enforcement. The second banner requested is “Green Lives Matter” to honor Guard units. The third and final banner requested is “All Lives Matter,” which the activists said is “secular” and won’t run afoul of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
The lawsuit comes about a week after Ms. Bowser had the street painted following weeks of protests in the nation’s capital after the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis over Memorial Day weekend. The officer has since been charged with second-degree murder.
“There are people who are craving to be heard and to be seen, and to have their humanity recognized, and we had the opportunity to send that message loud and clear on a very important street in our city,” Ms. Bowser told reporters last week about the protesters.
“And it is that message, and that message is to the American people, that Black Lives Matter black humanity matters, and we as a city raise that up as part of our values as a city,” she added.
Those protests, though, turned violent at night as rioters defaced memorials along the National Mall and burned buildings, including the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church across from the White House.
• Alex Swoyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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