Metro bus ads

Composite image by Jake Ellison

Battles over billboards and bus ads have gotten heated in many cities, most notably the battle between atheists and believers in New York City that's heating up again, but not many end up in court. One that did in Seattle last year, is back on the streets … on the sides of King County Metro buses.

“I’m Palestinian … Equal rights for all.”

The message, resonate of the pleasant smiling faces declaring they are Mormon on many Metro buses, seems innocuous enough. But the new ads come from the same group that took the county to court after officials felt the group’s original ad campaign could result in violence.

Public Health Seattle & King County

A major ad campaign launches this week to promote healthy living, with advertisements featured on Seattle-area television, radio and billboards. Just about the only place you won’t find the ads is on Metro buses.

The transit agency says the advertisements violate its new policy regarding public service announcements. The policy, adopted April 8th, prohibits ads that express a viewpoint on “matters of public debate about economic, political, religious or social issues.”

ACLU Legal Exhibit

King County is being sued over its refusal to allow a controversial ad on Metro buses. The advertisement, sponsored by the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign, reads:  “Israeli War Crimes.Your Tax Dollars at Work.”

County officials originally agreed to the ad in December, but changed their mind when news of the campaign sparked international criticism and concerns about violence.

King County Executive Dow Constantine says the escalation of global interest in a bus placard critical of Israel introduces significant security concerns and makes Metro buses vulnerable to disruption. 

Because of this, he’s approved an interim policy that calls for a halt to the acceptance of any new non-commercial advertising on King County buses.

Metro expects to complete work on a permanent transit ad policy by the end of January.

A sign scheduled to run on Metro buses next week has King County officials debating the limits of free speech in transit advertising.

The ad features the words, “Israeli war crimes your tax dollars at work” next to a group of kids staring at a demolished building.

King County Councilman Peter von Reichbauer called for a re-evaluation of the proposed ads, set to roll out Dec. 27.  The date coincides with the two-year anniversary of Israeli military action in Gaza.