NEW YORK (Reuters) – A conservative women’s group cannot paint its own mural on New York City streets even after Mayor Bill de Blasio allowed a yellow “Black Lives Matter” mural to be painted outside Trump Tower, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled on Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield said Women for America First, a supporter of Republican former President Donald Trump, did not show that the city violated its First Amendment rights in rejected its mural “Engaging, Inspiring and Empowering Women to Make a Difference!”
The judge said the city may apply reasonable, viewpoint-neutral restrictions to street surfaces, which are typically reserved for signage to promote traffic safety and are not “message boards for private expression.”
Schofield also refused to block the city from painting its own murals, saying it could pose “serious, potentially unwarranted limitations” on government communications with the public and was therefore not in the public interest.
“We are disappointed in this outcome and we will take a very hard look at the decision,” Ronald Coleman, a lawyer for the plaintiff, said in an email.
Women for America First had proposed painting its mural on Fifth Avenue, where Trump Tower is located.
It also proposed alternative locations including City Hall Park, on 42nd Street near Times Square, and on the FDR Drive near Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s official residence.
New York City “has a right to select the views that it wants to express,” Diana Murray, senior counsel in its law department, said in an email. “The decision to deny plaintiff’s application was consistent with longstanding Supreme Court precedent.”
De Blasio, a Democrat, tweeted when the “Black Lives Matter” mural was painted: “Our city isn’t just painting the words on Fifth Avenue. We’re committed to the meaning of the message.”
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)