Heard on the Hill: Chalk It Up to a Lack of Humor

Posted June 21, 2011 at 6:48pm

First they take away our right to dance protest at the Jefferson Memorial, and now they take away our right to demonstrate via sidewalk chalk in front of the White House.

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals decided that sidewalk chalk demonstrations in front of the White House are not protected by the First Amendment.

(Tip of the ol’ hat to our friends at Legal Times.)

The whole thing started when the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, wanted to protest President Barack Obama’s views on abortion in front of the White House.

For some reason, only sidewalk chalk could truly communicate Mahoney’s distress, so he notified the Metropolitan Police Department and the Department of the Interior about his intent to chalk in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Unfortunately for Mahoney, the MPD said he couldn’t because that would be defacement. He could bring thousands of supporters. He could wave hundreds of signs. He could bring as many banners as he wanted, but no sidewalk chalk.

Don’t tread on him, MPD.

According to the court decision, “Mahoney responded by demanding the MPD reverse its position and provide a ‘written assurance POST HASTE’ authorizing his chalking demonstration.” They didn’t. Mahoney still attempted his chalk protest and was arrested. He sued, claiming First Amendment rights.

“No one has a First Amendment right to deface government property,” judge Brett Kavanaugh said in the concurring opinion. “No one has a First Amendment right, for example, to spray-paint the Washington Monument or smash the windows of a police car.”

Um, they do know chalk washes off, right?