EXCLUSIVE: Republicans on the House Judiciary and Oversight committees are demanding answers on the arrests of pro-life protesters in Washington, D.C., in what they are calling “unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.”
House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, along with the top Republican on the Oversight Committee, James Comer, R-K.Y., on Monday penned a letter to Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband questioning the arrest of two people affiliated with Students for Life of America.
Jordan and Comer noted that the students were arrested “for writing the phrase ‘Black Pre-Born Lives Matter’ in chalk on a public sidewalk” in D.C. and were charged with defacing public or private property, with a punishment of a fine up to $1,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail.
“This incident, in light of the District allowing other political messages to appear on public property, raises troubling questions about whether the District is respecting the constitutional rights of individuals in a viewpoint-neutral manner,” they wrote.
“The District’s prohibition of the ‘Black Pre-Born Lives Matter’ message suggests that the District may have engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination in light of the District’s allowance for other political messages on public property,” they continued.
Jordan and Comer wrote that the District “declined to remove the political message ‘Defund The Police’ painted prominently on 16th Street and located adjacent to the government-commissioned ‘Black Lives Matter’ mural in early June.”
“The District has only recently paved over the ‘Defund The Police’ message, more than two months after it was painted,” they wrote. “This decision to allow some political messages to be painted or marked on public property but not other suggests that the District may be discriminating against speakers on the basis of their viewpoints.”
The Republicans urged the Justice Department to provide answers so that they can “better understand” how the agency and the office “evaluates and addresses unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination on public property” and asked for a staff-level briefing to the committees no later than Sept. 1.
Meanwhile, Comer and Jordan also penned a similar letter to Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser, demanding her office “produce all documents and communications between June 1, 2020 and the present referring or relating the arrest of the individuals associated with the Students for Life of America on August 1, 2020.”
Jordan and Comer said Bowser’s office had to provide documents by Aug. 24 and arrange for a briefing on the matter by Aug. 26.