WASHINGTON (CN) – An anti-abortion group that wants to display graphic posters of aborted fetuses outside a black-history museum claims in a federal complaint that it has a First Amendment right to do so.
Insisting that the location for its protest is not a coincidence, the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform says that it is fighting “black genocide.”
“NMAAHC hides from those who visit the museum the fact that abortion is disproportionately harming the African American community,” the complaint states, abbreviating the name of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
“And in fact, NMAAHC endorses and promotes those individuals and organizations that promote abortion.”
The protesters included 10 images of their signs in the complaint. “All Black Lives Matter, Born and Unborn,” one says, the message encircling photographs of a diapered black infant beside a pile of tiny fetus limbs stacked on a U.S. quarter.
Another image included in the June 9 lawsuit shows a casket photo of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955.
“The Klan used to lynch our children,” it says beneath Till’s image. “Now Planned Parenthood kills them,” it continues, over another bloody fetus picture identified as “10 Week Abortion.”
The protesters say they were displaying posters like these outside the NMAAHC on Feb. 1 when an armed security officer threatened to forcefully move and arrest them.
Located in D.C.’s National Mall at 14000 Constitution Avenue, the museum has not respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit.
Photographs of the scene, including the spot across the street where the protesters moved to avoid arrest, are also included in the complaint.
Seeking an injunction, the protesters draw a parallel between their actions and those of activists who support the movement Black Lives Matter, including NMAAHC director Lonnie Bunch.
“Defendant Bunch says he wants the museum to tackle the difficult, painful issues, but when plaintiffs attempt to create a ‘conversation’ with those who visit NMAAHC and inject the issue of the high abortion rate in the African American community, plaintiffs are threatened with arrest,” the 18-page complaint states. “Defendant Bunch told the Washington Post that ‘we felt it was really important to take on things that might be deemed controversial or difficult,’ stating that NMAAHC will have a core of volunteers who have been trained to help visitors who ‘might be emotional or upset by these issues’ and to encourage visitors to take time in the ‘reflective areas’ around the museum for facilitated conversations. Yet, Defendant Bunch wants to exclude from this conversation of controversial or difficult issues the drastic effect abortion is having on the African American community.”
Citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the protesters say black women represent only 11 percent of the American female population but have 36 percent of all abortions.
Noting that many of NMAAHC’s visitors are expected to be black students from public schools, the protesters say this is their target audience for their message “regarding the tremendous harm abortion is doing to the African American community.”
“By ordering plaintiffs to move under threat of arrest or physical force, defendants forced plaintiffs to move to a location where they could not reach their target audience and where their message would be silenced,” the complaint states.
In addition to free-speech violations, the protesters brought a claim under the equal-protection clause of the Fifth Amendment.
“NMAAHC has been hijacked by activists who wield a divisive political agenda which advocates in favor of abortion, thereby continuing this harm to the black community,” the complaint states.
The protesters also allege a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“Pursuant to Plaintiffs’ sincerely held religious beliefs, they are required to publicly proclaim the evil of abortion in order to convert the hearts and minds of those who support or condone abortion, including those who condone abortion by remaining neutral to this grave evil,” the complaint states.
In addition to the museum and director Bunch, the complaint takes aim at the Office of Protection Services, its director Jeanne O’Toole, and an anonymous security officer.
The anti-abortion group is joined by its director, Gregg Cunningham, as co-plaintiff, along with the Rev. Clenard Childress Jr. and its director of minority outreach, Jacqueline Hawkins.
Their attorney, Robert Muise with the American Freedom Law Center, did not respond to an email seeking comment.