A pro-life student and a staffer for Students for Life of America (SFLA) were arrested in Washington, D.C. on Saturday morning for using chalk to write "black pre-born lives matter" outside of a Planned Parenthood facility. The pair was identified as 22-year-old Townson University student Erica Caporalett and 29-year-old Warner DePriest, SFLA's Strategic Partnerships Advisor, the Washington Post reported. The two were taking part in an event coordinated between SFLA and the Fredrick Douglass Foundation.
An officer from the Metropolitan Police Department warned the two protestors they would be arrested for defacing property. Despite that, the pair continued to write their message, at which point they were put in handcuffs and lead to a patrol car.
A man attending the event was disgusted by MPD's decision to arrest the peaceful protestors.
“You know they do this every Saturday, right? Every Saturday people are here chalking and you are taking somebody, young people, and arresting them because they are simply putting ‘black preborn lives matter?’ You’ve gotta be joking!” Rev. Dean Nelson, president and chief executive of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, screamed from the sidelines. "You gotta absolutely be joking, that you are “Every Saturday, people are here chalking and you are taking somebody, young people, and arresting them because they are putting on a sidewalk chalk, standing for pre-born black lives. You've absolutely gotta be joking!"
"We're standing in front of a mortuary where they kill children every day and you're taking young people away, to the police department, because they're simply putting chalk on the sidewalk," he went on. "This is absolutely absurd!"
As police talked with the two detainees, the crowd began to chant.
"Black pre-born lives matter! Black pre-born lives matter!" the group chanted.
Despite the arrests, the group continued on with their mission. Instead of staying in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic, they marched from the Fredrick Douglass Courthouse back to their original location.
“We are moving on with our event today, that is not going to stop us,” Michele Hendrickson, eastern regional director for Students for Life, said. “If anything, this just added some fuel to our fire.”
The march comes after the pro-life organizations sent a letter to Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser asking for permission to paint "Black Pre-Born Lives Matter" on the streets of the nation's capital.
Having opened the streets of your city for public expression, Students for Life of America (SFLA) and The Frederick Douglass Foundation (FDF) requests the opportunity to add our voices to those concerned about the treatment of people of color in America. Black Lives 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.
You must allow SFLA and FDF to paint its “Black Pre-born Lives Matter” message. 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 fora. The message of the preborn will not be silenced.
The organizations were granted permission to hold their event but were asked to use tempera paint. The sudden change in pace is what irked organizers.
"After applying and receiving our permit for this event today, after being told by the Metropolitan police that the Mayor has quote ‘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. 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," SFLA President Kristan Hawkins said in a statement. “With these threats D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has made her motives clear as she apparently only thinks that SOME Black Lives Matter and that only SOME slogans are allowed to be painted on streets. She will be hearing from Students for Life’s attorneys about these unconstitutional efforts to limit speech to government-approved topics.”