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ACLU Urges Metro to Accept All Lawful Advertising

UPDATE: The ACLU of Washington deplores King County’s decision to back away from its previous transit advertising policy.  Initially King County officials affirmed that advertising by the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign would run on Metro buses, saying the signs are protected by the First Amendment. 

On December 23rd, however, the County backtracked on its longstanding policy that supported free discourse.   “It is a sad day when the county that is named after Martin Luther King Jr. fails to stand up for the right to express controversial ideas,” said ACLU-WA executive director Kathleen Taylor.

For many years Metro buses serving Seattle and King County have carried paid commercial and non-commercial messages, ranging from Wells Fargo Bank to Alcoholics Anonymous. 

The King County Executive has called for a review of the agency’s policies for non-commercial advertising. The ACLU urges Metro to accept all lawful advertising.

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December 21, 2010

King County Metro buses will be carrying paid advertising with harshly worded criticism of Israel. The signs are being paid for by the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign. King County Council member Peter von Reichbauer and others have urged Metro not to run the signs, alleging they are hateful and will incite violence. King County officials have affirmed that the signs will run, saying they are protected by the First Amendment.

The ACLU of Washington supports Metro Transit’s decision to honor its commitment to carry the signs. The First Amendment protects the right to communicate political messages in public, including messages that some may find very offensive and disturbing.

The King County Executive has called for a review of the agency’s policies for non-commercial advertising. The ACLU urges Metro to be highly protective of First Amendment rights in its policies for bus signs. The ACLU will continue monitoring the situation.