They got the headline right — which is rare. And remember — all of these news stories quote the ad — so the message, one that few know, gets to millions more people.
‘Anti-Jihad’ bus ads can’t be blocked by MTA: judgeSay what you will about the decision, but at least this judge gives New Yorkers respect.
Manhattan federal Judge John Koetl ruled Tuesday that the MTA cannot stop a political activist from running ads on city buses that attack Islamic fundamentalists — saying he has faith that New Yorkers won’t be incited to violence.
“The defendants underestimate the tolerant quality of New Yorkers and overestimate the potential impact of these fleeting advertisements,” Manhattan federal Judge John Koetl wrote in a 28-page decision siding with Pam Geller [sic] and her pro-Israel American Freedom Defense Initiative.
“It strains credulity to believe that New Yorkers would be incited to violence by ads that did not incite residents of Chicago and San Francisco to similar acts. This is not to minimize the terror threats to New York City, but those threats do not arise from these fleeting advertisements.”
Geller and her group sued the Metropolitan Transportation Authority last October for allegedly violating their First Amendment freedom-of-speech rights by pulling ads that read “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah,” followed by “That’s His Jihad. What’s yours?” beside a picture of a man with a scarf covering his face. The “Killing Jews” line is attributed to a Hamas TV station.
The pro-Israel group last year paid $100,000 to plaster six ads denouncing jihad on 100 city buses and in the city’s busiest subway stations. The MTA green-lighted five of the ads but denied the one in question because agency officials thought it would provoke violence due to Mideast turmoil.
Koetl wrote that while “the Court is sensitive to the MTA’s security concerns, the defendants have not presented any objective evidence that the Killing Jews advertisement would be likely to incite imminent violence.”
He also pointed out that the same ad ran in San Francisco and Chicago in 2013 “without incident” and he has no reason to believe New Yorkers would react differently.
The MTA in a statement said it is “disappointed” in the ruling and is “weighing” its options on whether to appeal.
David Yerushalmi, a lawyer for Geller’s group, said it plans to hang up the ads, but it is unclear when because the MTA still has 30 days to appeal. The group’s lawyers also plans to seek reimbursement from the MTA of roughly $100,000 in legal fees it racked up on the case.
“The whole security assessment was a joke,” said Yerushalmi, referring to the MTA’s objections.
A federal judge ruled in 2012 that under the First Amendment, the MTA can’t block an advertisement, even if it is controversial. But the agency can stop those that might cause violence or harm its operations.