Metro Transit
4:46 pm
Mon December 20, 2010

Ads criticizing Israel cause stir over Metro bus policies

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.

King 5 reports that von Reichbauer wrote a letter to King County Executive Dow Constantine that says, “I am a strong advocate of freedom of speech and a strong believer of common sense.  And I believe very strongly that dangerous language can create dangerous environments in a society.”

Constantine quickly responded with a statement that says he’s asked Metro to review its policies on non-commercial bus advertising, but that “state and federal constitutions protect speech, including unpopular speech, and limit a government’s ability to regulate advertising content. 

The group Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign paid $1,794 for the sign to run on 12 buses.

Constantine says while Metro needs revenue, the money from provocative ads is negligible compared to the hundreds of hours staff members spend dealing with the controversy.