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Pro-police groups file lawsuit against Bill de Blasio over mural

Two pro-police groups have filed a lawsuit against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio after he denied their request to paint a ‘Blue Lives Matter’ mural in Manhattan, similar to the one Black Lives Matter painted outside of Trump Tower.

The lawsuit, filed late Monday by Blue Lives Matter NYC and Standing up for NYC in the Southern District of New York, accuses de Blasio and Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg of violating the groups’ First Amendment rights.

According to the organizations, the alleged constitutional breach stems from de Blasio and Trottenberg allowing ‘city property to be used by private speakers’ – yet forbidding a similar mural in support of law enforcement.

‘The “Black Lives Matter” message is highly political and is generally understood by the public to be and support a general anti-police message, include some extreme measures as defunding the police and ending police activity,’ the suit reads.

The groups wanted to emblazon the words ‘Blue Lives Matter’ on the street outside One Police Plaza to call attention to the dangers of policing that officer face every day on the job, they said.

They also suggested using Broadway and West 45th Street in midtown as an alternative location, but both suggestions were denied by City Hall.

Founder of Blue Lives Matter NYC, Sgt. Joe Imperatrice, said in a statement that he just wanted ‘to be granted the same privilege to bring to light a cause that we so believe in would change the trajectory of equality for all those with the same interest.

‘Certain politicians have gotten away from equality and fairness for all, and have given privilege to certain groups,’ Imperatrice continued. ‘That’s not what being American is all about – and that’s sure not what being a New Yorker is all about.’

In their original plea to de Blasio last month, the group saluted the mayor for his support of the Black Lives Matter movement and his attempts to bring awareness to systemic racism, but wanted to shed light on a cause of their own.

‘As you may know, as of today, over 30 Police Officers have been killed in line of duty by firearms this year alone,’ a joint statement from the two groups read. 

‘We would like to raise awareness regarding preventable murders of those who swore an oath to serve and protect their communities, and honor the lives and memory of public servants whose heroic lives ended too soon.’

The group said they would pay for the mural themselves, and said they were counting on de Blasio’s ‘unbiased support’ for the proposed project.

De Blasio later refused the request, declaring in late July that Black Lives Matter ‘transcends any notion of politics … This is about something much bigger than any one group.’

Standing up for NYC co-founder Jason Cohen voiced his disappointment over de Blasio’s decision Tuesday, writing in a statement announcing the suit that the mural would have been ‘significant in many aspects, mainly to honor the memories of those NYPD officer who gave their lives as the ultimate sacrifice’

‘It’s also relevant toward boosting the moral for our men and women who wear the blue uniform which becomes their lives, in response to a City that now scorns and defunds them,’ he added.

Fellow group co-founder Tatiana Davidoff, said she believe painting the Blue Lives Matter mural was the ‘smallest thing’ the city could do to show its ‘respect for [police] during these controversial times.’

The Blue Lives Matter organization, a loosely affiliated group of police officers, emerged as a counter-movement to the Black Lives Matter movement after the 2014 killings of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.

The group has inspired some state-level legislation seeking to make law enforcement a protected class under hate crime laws.

A coalition of civil rights groups – including the NAAACP – slammed that legislation as a ‘political response’ to nationwide calls for police reform.

De Blasio, meanwhile, approved a series of Black Lives Matter murals throughout the Big Apple last month, even participating in painting a small portion of the one outside of Trump tower, which the president said would be ‘denigrating’ Fifth Avenue.

‘President Trump said we would be denigrating the luxury of Fifth Avenue,’ De Blasio said in response to Trump’s tweet. ‘Let me tell you: we’re not denigrating anything, we are liberating Fifth Avenue, we are uplifting Fifth Avenue.’

City Hall has not yet responded to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

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