Judicial Watch Sues U.S. Department of Transportation for Records of Communication with DC Government over Black Lives Matter Painting
Trump Administration Reportedly Has Told DC Government to Reopen Street and Remove Painting
(Washington, DC) Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Transportation for records of communication between the Federal Highway Administration and the District of Columbia’s Department of Transportation about the painting of “Black Lives Matter” on and the reopening of 16th Street NW near the White House in Washington, DC (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Transportation (No. 20-cv-02667)).
This lawsuit was filed after the Federal Highway Administration failed to respond to an August 19, 2020, FOIA request asking for:
- Emails between the Federal Highway Administration and the District Department of Transportation about the painting of “Black Lives Matter” on 16th Street, N.W. between H and K Streets, N.W.
- Emails between the Federal Highway Administration and the District Department of Transportation about the closure of 16th Street, N.W. between H and K Streets, N.W.
- Records identifying policies or procedures for closing streets deemed part of the District Evacuation Route.
On September 15, 2020, it was reported that the Federal Highway Administration informed Washington, DC, officials that it wanted them, “to remove the Black Lives Matter plaza sign so that part of 16th street in downtown Washington could be re-opened to traffic.” Further, there is “nothing in writing right now because no one wants to come down on the side against … the Black Lives Matter movement,” and there have been closed door meetings between the Mayor’s office, the Federal Highway Administration, and local businesses affected by the road closure.
On June 5, 2020, after days of protests and riots in Washington, DC, led by the Black Lives Matter movement, a team of artists, residents, District employees, and demonstrators painted “Black Lives Matter” and the District’s crest, which resembles three stars above an “equals” sign, on 16th Street NW. The following day, demonstrators painted “Defund the Police,” a key demand of the Black Lives Matter movement, alongside the “Black Lives Matter” message.
“DC Mayor Bowser shut down a major street near the White House to make a political statement for the BLM/Defund the Police agenda,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Our lawsuit highlights how and why federal dollars should not be used to subsidize this abuse.”
On July 1, Judicial Watch filed a civil rights lawsuit against Mayor 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.
In August, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against 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” on a DC street in front of the White House