Gellar’s savage ad Photo:Mike Koozmin
Predictably, Geller’s controversial savage ads on San Franciso’s Muni buses are meeting strong resistance from members of the Bay Area community. According to KQED, an NPR-member radio station owned by Northern California Public Broadcasting, San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency is considering pulling the ad. However, SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose told the Huffington Post, reviewing its options in whether or not it will keep the ad for the entire run “limited in what we can do.”
The transportation agency is likely between a rock and a hard place. Gellar, who stated previously she would have filed a lawsuit had the city’s transportation agency refused her ad, will undoubtedly file one if they pull it.
KQED’s brief coverage of the controversy reveals what’s on the minds of many; “the city caved to a threat at the expense of its residents.”
HOST: San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency is considering pulling an ad that calls enemies of Israel “savages.” KQED’s Aarti Shahani reports the ad is under national scrutiny.
AARTI SHAHANI: MTA spokesman Paul Rose says while his agency has never pulled an ad, they’re not ruling it out here.
PAUL ROSE: We understand how this ad may be offensive. We’re exploring options in light of First Amendment issues, our ad policy and contractual requirements.
SHAHANI: A federal judge recently decided New York’s rejection of the same ad violated First Amendment rights. Plaintiff Pamela Geller of the American Freedom Defense Initiative says she forwarded that decision to the MTA.
PAMELA GELLER: If San Francisco had denied my ad, I would have filed a lawsuit in San Francisco.
SHAHANI: Zahra Billoo is with the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Billoo says the city caved to a threat at the expense of its residents.
ZAHRA BILLOO: We are hearing from members of the community, both Arab and Muslim and otherwise, saying, ‘you know, we don’t feel comfortable boarding buses labeling entire communities savage.’
Meanwhile, a petition created by Bay Area resident James Harris at Change.org, Paul Rose, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency: Stop MUNI’s “Hate on Wheel’s Program”. Remove Racist Ads from MUNI buses, is garnering attention from the San Francisco Examiner to Jerusalem’s Times of Israel.
Will Reisman reports at the SF Examiner ‘Savage’ ads on Muni stir debate:
Change.org, a grass-roots advocacy group, has asked its members to write to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, and request that the advertisements be removed.
“Declaring a whole people “savages” belongs in the dustbin of 19th century colonial racism, not on a city bus in the 21st Century of a progressive city like San Francisco,” the Change.org petition effort claims.
Sydney Levy, director of advocacy for Jewish Voice For Peace, said the SFMTA should at least insert a large disclaimer near the ads indicating that the agency doesn’t support the message of the campaign.
“This is very offensive, particularly at a time when anti-Islam incidents are rising in California,” Levy said. “The message is certainly out of tune with the values of San Francisco.”
The agency’s policy bans ads that are clearly defamatory, pornographic, advocate imminent violence or are false and misleading. There are also restrictions against political campaigns and ads promoting alcohol and cigarettes.
“While this ad is protected under the First Amendment, our ad policy and our contractual obligations, we condemn the use of any language that belittles, demeans or disparages others. Going forward, we will review our policies with regards to ads on the Muni system,” the SFMTA said in a statement from board of directors Chairman Tom Nolan and Ed Reiskin, director of transportation for the SFMTA.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco has released a statement condemning the ads and calling on Muni to remove them. “The Bay Area’s organized Jewish community takes great offense to the ad’s inflammatory and anti-Muslim language. We are steadfast in our support of Israel and our concern about the growing threat of Islamic radicalism, and steadfast in our opposition to anti-Muslim stereotypes,” the organization said in a statement. “We have long been concerned that the repeated appearance of offensive anti-Israel ads would turn our local public transit system into a battleground for the Israeli-Arab conflict; we are no less concerned by offensive anti-Muslim ads. We urge all transit authorities to reassess their policies and to construct advertising policies consistent with laws governing protected speech that preserve public transit as a safe space for all passengers.”
Thus far, not a peep out of the San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate), San Francsico’s leading news publication.