ACLU, PETA among those suing over rejected DC transit ads

Henrietta Brewer
August 10, 2017

Faced with an effort by Pamela Gellar to run the winning "Draw Muhammad" cartoon on buses and in subway stations, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in 2015 banned all "issue oriented" ads. "And WMATA's new advertising Guidelines, which explicitly or implicitly incorporate such viewpoint discrimination, are unconstitutional for the same reason". "We are in the process of removing the ads", Metro spokesman Richard Jordan said in a statement after the ad campaign's removal. "I'm joined in this lawsuit by fellow plaintiffs including pharmaceutical villains and vitamin-deficient vegans, but I'm no stranger to odd bedfellows". Strong opponents keep us honest.

The ACLU, Carafem - a nonprofit that provides abortion services - and PETA are also plaintiffs in the suit.

"Without free speech protections, all civil rights advocacy could be shut down by the people in power, precisely because government doesn't agree with the ideas activists advance".

The other rejected ads include those from the ACLU, which displayed the First Amendment in English, Spanish, and Arabic; a women's health care collective called Carafem that was promoting a "10-Week-After Pill"; and several PETA spots that suggested people give up consuming animal products.


Notices for Yiannopoulos's book were posted and remained up in New York's and Chicago's transit systems, both of which have rules against overtly political advertising.

"The Milo Worldwide advertisements were rejected based on the identity of the author and/or the perceived viewpoint of the book or its author", the complaint reads.

Milo Yiannopoulos and PETA are among the political forces with wildly opposing views that are now on the same team, as the ACLU defends their First Amendment claims against Washington, DC's public transit and its advertising policy.

As the plaintiffs hold differences in opinion on many major issues outside of this case, their merger highlights the concerns of people on various sides of the political spectrum when it comes to the First Amendment.


"Just 10 days after the ads went up, WMATA directed its agents to take them all down and issue a refund - suddenly claiming that the ads violated [policy]".

Why would the ACLU represent Milo in court? "They deserve to be protected from that - not from free speech in their public transportation system".

Earlier this year, the ACLU tried to advertise a reproduction of the First Amendment of the US Constitution on the WMATA, after what they allege were denigrating statements made by President Donald Trump against journalists in the US. Our advertisements were apolitical and completely uncontroversial; we were advertising a book launch! Which advertisements do not break those policies?

Arthur Spitzer, the legal director for the A.C.L.U.'s District of Columbia chapter, said that the organization found the rejection of its own ad, which displayed the text of the First Amendment in three languages, particularly notable.


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