Days after shockingly racist and Islamophobic ads started appearing on city buses in San Francisco — paid for by a notorious anti-Muslim group led by notorious racist Pamela Geller — anonymous artists wheatpasted over the ads with an image of a hand and a stamp with the words “HATE SPEECH.”
Additionally, the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority (SFMTA) posted full-sized disclaimer placards on MUNI buses that carry the Islamophobic ads. The disclaimer says that “SFMTA policy prohibits discrimination based on national origin, religion, and other characteristics, and condemns any statements that describe any group as “savages.”
As Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said on The Electronic Intifada podcast this week, MUNI made it clear “that they would not be removing the ads,” because as vile as the message was, “it was likely protected by the First Amendment.” However, the community has mobilized and was in talks with MUNI and the SF Human Rights Commission to determine the impact of the ads and how to move forward. Earlier in the week, the SFMTA announced that the revenue from the ads would be directed to the Human Rights Commission.
Pamela Geller and her group “thrives on lawsuits,” Billoo added. “She goes from city to city, waiting for someone to turn her down, so that she can sue them. She’s using lawsuits to essentially blackmail other cities into submission.” After New York City’s transit agency rejected the same ads, Geller filed a lawsuit and won a temporary injunction last month when a federal judge ruled that Geller’s ads were protected by the First Amendment.
“San Francisco said, ok, we’re not going to touch that with a ten-foot pole,” Billoo said. “We’ll give her the ad space. And so they caved because of the fear [of a lawsuit].”
To hear more of our important interview with Zahra Billoo, listen to our podcast.
In other news, The Gothamist reported on a new ad from Pamela Geller and her Islamophobic hate group that turned up at the Hartsdale Metro-North station in Hartsdale, New York. The poster reads, “19,250 Deadly Islamic Attacks Since 9/11/01* (*And Counting)” and “It’s Not Islamophobia, It’s Islamorealism.”
The Gothamist reported:
Naturally, this upsets a local Westchester politician.
Paul Feiner, the Greenburgh Town Supervisor, tells the Daily Politics that he wants the MTA “to warn passengers that the ads could be upsetting and don’t represent Metro-North’s views or that of the community,” noting, “There are many Muslims residing in Greenburgh and in our villages. They should not be discriminated against. the posters encourage hatred, discrimination and do not help the efforts to fight hate crimes.”
Feiner added that he wants the MTA to donate the ad profits to an anti-discrimination campaign, “I feel it’s not a violation of free speech for Metro North to put up a competing sign and it’s also not a violation of free speech if they donate the profits to an anti-defamation league or an organization that objects to hate crimes. I feel that it should be clear that the people of Metro North and the town do not support this message.”
The poster is from the American Freedom Defense Initiative (from Pamela Geller), which complained about some Jewish organizations criticizing the ads, “Look how tough these Jews are when it comes to going after their own who are brave enough not to hide behind the genocidal rhetoric of the annihilators. Are we to understand that these liberal Jews sanction the jihad war on innocent civilians in Israel?