Rich Penkoski, a DC-based pastor, and a group he is representing have filed a complaint against Mayor Muriel Bowser over her decision of having the “Black Lives Matter” message written on 16th Street near the White House in giant yellow letters.
The lawsuit filed on Wednesday is accusing the mayor of violating the First Amendment by founding a religion in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement, which the plaintiffs call a “cult” and “pro-communist group.” They claim that it holds “public ritualistic atonement ceremonies and incantations.”
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are also seeking to force the mayor to order similar paintings like “Blue Lives Matter” (for police officers), “Green Lives Matter” (for the National Guard), and “All Lives Matter” in the city.
Another demand of the plaintiffs is changing the name of the now-Black Lives Matter Plaza (previously named 16th Street) into “Jesus Is the Answer Plaza.”
The organization behind the lawsuit is named the “Warriors for Christ,” which was designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Penkoski is a leader of the DC chapter of the group, along with Tex Christopher and Chris Sevier.
Bowser unveiled the mural on June 5, several days after federal officials’ dispersing of George Floyd protesters by using tear gas for President Donald Trump to walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo op.
The “Black Lives Matter” message painted across the length of the street leading to the White House lawn later received an update from local activists that read: “Defund the police.” The names of DC residents killed by the police were also written on the street.
BYP100 (Black Youth Project 100), an organization of black youth activists against racial injustice, shared photos of the additional work over Twitter, along with the message “Fixed it! Tell Mayor Bowser, Black Lives Matter = Defund Police” on Sunday, June 7.
“Bowser’s mural has been widely heralded as a powerful symbol, and a showcase of defiance against President Donald Trump and his efforts to violently shut down protest. But some local activists see it as an attempt to cover up the problem of police violence in the District,” said a press release by the Defund MPD campaign.