Judicial Watch filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Mayor of the District of Columbia, Muriel Bowser, and other officials for First Amendment violations over their refusal to allow Judicial Watch to paint the message “Because No One Is Above the Law!” on a DC street.
This lawsuit was filed after Judicial Watch sent a letter requesting permission to paint the message on another DC street near its headquarters by Capitol Hill in the identical size and coloring of the “Black Lives Matter = Defund the Police” painting on a DC street in front of the White House.
In addition, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against DC Mayor Bowser, the District of Columbia Department of Transportation and the District of Columbia Department of Public Works for records about the painting of “Black Lives Matter” and “Defund the Police” in front of the White House (Judicial Watch. v. Muriel Bowser, et al. (2020 CA 003357 B)).
The FOIA lawsuit was filed after Mayor Bowser failed to respond to three separate FOIA requests, the DC Department of Public Works failed to respond to two separate FOIA requests, and the DC Department of Transportation stated that they located 616 pages of records, but could not provide 615 of the pages, “due to deliberative process privilege (internal discussions).”
The summary of the six FOIA requests are as follows:
- Three FOIA requests to the Mayor seek all records related to the cost of, communications between District officials and outside organizations about, and policy and procedure for painting “Black Lives Matter” and “Defund the Police” on 16th Street. These records also include communications related to Judicial Watch’s request to paint “Because No One Is Above the Law!” on District streets.
- Two FOIA requests to the Department of Public Works seek all records related to the cost of, communications between District officials and outside organizations about, and policy and procedure for painting “Black Lives Matter” and “Defund the Police” on 16th Street.
- One FOIA request to the Department of Transportation seeks records of communication about the closure of 16th Street, N.W. between H and K Streets.
Initially, the Department of Transportation improperly asked for specific names of employees for emails and phone numbers for texts Judicial Watch was seeking.
After Judicial Watch responded with a previous DC Court of Appeals ruling as to why the hold on the records search was improper, the Department of Transportation stated that it, “located 616 pages of public records held by DDOT that are responsive to your FOIA request” and that “615 pages of these records have not been provided to you because, although responsive, they are exempt in their entirety from being disclosed due to deliberative process privilege (internal discussions).”
“Mayor Bowser is playing games with the First Amendment and the DC government is now hiding documents on using tax dollars to paint political messages on DC streets,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “First, Mayor Bowser refused to allow Judicial Watch to paint its own message, and now we are facing a cover up about this abuse.”
In Washington DC, you can paint “Black Lives Matter” or “Defund the Police” on public property to your heart’s content. It is an approved government message. You may not paint “No One Is Above the Law.” And that’s is only fair since there are some people who are above the law and Mayor Bowser decides who is above and not above the law.