Two black leaders who were prevented from demonstrating outside the Smithsonian African-American history museum against a decades-long “genocide” carried out against black children through abortion resolved a free-speech case against the federal government in their favor.
Rev. Clenard H. Childress Jr., pastor of a black church in the Newark, New Jersey, area, and Jacqueline Hawkins, director minority outreach for the non-profit Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, filed suit after an official with the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and uniformed police officers from the Office of Protection Services told them they could not stand outside the museum with their sign.
The protest in February was part of a project by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, or CBR, that uses photo-mural exhibits and literature to “demonstrate the devastation of abortion’s consequences on the African American community.”
The parties filed a settlement Aug. 30 in which the federal government formally acknowledged “that the public sidewalks forming the perimeter of the National Museum of African American History and Culture are available for First Amendment activity.” The government also agreed to pay attorney’s fees to the nonprofit American Freedom Law Center, which represented the protesters.
Robert Muise, AFLC co-founder and senior counsel, said there was “no question that our clients had a clear right under the First Amendment to engage in their peaceful, non-obstructive free speech activity on the public sidewalks outside of this museum.”
“The government was wrong for denying our clients that right, and they knew it,” he said.
The other plaintiffs in the lawsuit were CBR and its executive director, Gregg Cunningham, who was standing by during the incident.
Childress and Hawkins, who direct the CBR project targeting the history museum, testified that when they were told they could not stand outside the museum with their sign, Childress responded that they were on a public sidewalk.
The senior OPS officer warned the two that if they did not move to a remote location across the street, he and his fellow officers would physically move them. The officer also warned that they would be subject to arrest.
Rather than face arrest or physical force, Childress and Hawkins followed the officer’s order.
In June, AFLC filed a federal lawsuit in federal court in Washington against the museum, OPS and several federal officials.
Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the Justice Department contacted AFLC attorneys, who confirmed the protesters’ First Amendment rights and stated the federal government wanted to settle the case.
David Yerushalmi, AFLC co-founder and senior counsel, asserted that in addition to being “a gross violation of our clients’ fundamental rights, the actions of the museum officials and their armed security demonstrate the hypocrisy of the left.”
“Progressives claim to be for diversity and tolerance, but if you don’t march in lockstep with their narrative, they use force and the threat of force to shut you down,” he said. “Here, we were able to use the federal courts to turn that narrative on its head.”
The suit alleged violations of the First and Fifth Amendments as well as the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Among the signs held by the protesters was one pointing out that while black women are 11 percent of the population, they are victims in 36 percent of abortions.
They contend Planned Parenthood and “abortion care” have “suppressed the black vote more effectively that poll taxes, literacy tests, voter ID requirements, and Ku Klux Klan lynchings combined.”
The signs point out that by 2014, 18 million African-American babies had been killed, calling it a “black genocide.”
The lawsuit asserted the museum hides from its visitors “the fact that abortion is disproportionately harming the African American community” and celebrates supporters of abortion.
They noted that the museum promotes the Black Lives Matter movement, which the protesters describe as “viciously pro-abortion.” And they pointed to the museum’s celebration of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, who was pro-abortion, while completely ignoring current Justice Clarence Thomas, who is pro-life.