Thirty-three New York City Council members — including I Daneek Miller, the lone Muslim member of the Council — and New York City Public Advocate
Letitia James have asked the Metropolitan Transportation
Authority to remove anti-Islamic advertisements that have
cropped up on subway stations and buses.
The three advertisements have been approved and paid
for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative. The
ads, paid for by blogger Pamela Geller at a cost of
$100,000, are intended as an ‘education campaign’ to
warn of the ‘problem with jihad’ and Islamic sharia law,
according to reports.
Mayor Bill de Blasio had condemned the advertisements
— which equate Muslim-American organizations to foreign terrorists — earlier.
In a letter sent to MTA President Tom Prendergast, the
elected officials asked to remove the ads urgently. They
said the MTA has the authority to do so. Some legal
experts disagreed, citing First Amendment rights.
The elected officials — including every member of the
Council’s Progressive Caucus and their co-chairs Antonio
Reynoso and Donovan Richards; the chair of the Council’s
Jewish Caucus, Mark Levine; and the co-chairs of the
Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, Rosie Mendez
and Andy King — noted in the letter that the ‘ads sow
hate, create discord, and promote violence against
Muslims and those who appear to be Muslim.’
Citing the MTA’s viewpoint-neutral advertisement
policies, they noted that the MTA was well within its
legal authority to remove the ads in part, and reject
They pointed out that transit systems and courts in
other states have rejected similar advertisements
from the American Freedom Defense Initiative.
With hate crimes up throughout the city, particularly against Muslim and Jewish communities due to
overseas turmoil, the officials noted that ‘by approving these ads, the MTA is complicit in allowing the
defamation and victimization of the Muslim community’ and that ‘it is the MTA’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for all riders and workers.
Other reports said the MTA has little choice. A
1998 federal appeals court ruled that ad space in the
city’s subways and buses count as designated public
forums, which means the agency cannot restrict
what is written.
A few years ago, the MTA tried to block Geller
from posting ads that called enemies of Israel ‘savages.’
The MTA argued that the ads violated its policy against
demeaning language. Geller filed a lawsuit, and a judge
ultimately ruled in her favor, saying that Geller’s ads were
free speech protected by the First Amendment.
‘If you read the court decision on this, our hands are
tied,’ MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg told the Daily News.
‘Hiding behind the veil of the First Amendment to spew
hate is pure cowardice,’ remarked Council Member Mark
Levine, chair of the Jewish Caucus.
Elected officials tell MTA
to remove anti-Islam ads
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