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Will D.C. streets become canvases for ideological battles? One conservative group seeks to find out

Much like the inmates now running the asylum over a six-block section of Seattle, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser seems to believe that she is a self-appointed potentate, rather than an elected caretaker of the federal capital. 

While it is true that Congress granted the District of Columbia some home-rule authority in 1973, Congress also maintains power over much of the district’s affairs since, per the Constitution, it is the designated seat of the national government.

Still, Bowser took it upon herself — ultimately earning oohs and ahhs from liberal activists — to send a message in early June by having “Black Lives Matter” painted in bold yellow letters along 16th Street not far from the White House. She later added “Defund the Police.”


The conservative group Judicial Watch is willing to see the mayor’s move and raise the stakes.

On Thursday, Judicial Watch petitioned Bowser to paint its motto on a city street.

“Both messages (authorized by Bowser) are expressive activity,” the group said in its letter. “For more than twenty-five years, Judicial Watch, Inc. has promoted transparency, accountability and integrity in government and fidelity to the rule of law. Our motto is ‘Because No One Is Above the Law!’ – a message that is particularly relevant today because it applies equally to law enforcement and public official (sic) as well as to protesters, looters, and rioters.”

“Because D.C. streets surfaces are now being used as public fora for expressive activity, we would like to have our motto painted on a street, preferably Independence Avenue SW, between 2nd and 4th Streets SW, which is near our offices. The lettering would be identical in size and color to the lettering used to paint ‘Black Lives Matter’ on 16th Street NW. Judicial Watch, Inc. would pay the cost of the painting, but we would likely need the assistance of the D.C. Government to aid in traffic diversion and parking restrictions while the painting is completed. Of course, the painting could be completed when traffic is typically light, as was done with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ message.”

In a statement, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton noted, “Mayor Bowser made a decision to turn D.C. streets into a forum for public expression. Judicial Watch seeks equal access to use this new forum to educate Americans by painting our organization’s motto and motivation, ‘Because No One Is Above the Law!,’ on a Capitol Hill street.

“This rule of law message is timely, as it is a reminder that rule of law applies to – and protects – all Americans. If we are unlawfully denied access and face viewpoint discrimination, we are prepared to go to court to vindicate our First Amendment rights.”

We can probably guess Bowser’s response. Still, given Judicial Watch’s readiness to drag government agencies into courtrooms to account for their behavior, it will be interesting to see if her sloganeering and performative symbolism can hold up in court. 

PHOTO: Photograph by Khalid Naji-Allah / Executive Office of the Mayor / AP

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