Controversial Metro ads spawn counterads, petitions, letter writing

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Local,Transportation,Kytja Weir

The Glenmont Metro station soon will become the central battleground in a war of words and ideas.

Two groups are taking out ads at the Red Line stop to counter a controversial ad posted there about the Mideast conflict. The Georgia Avenue, U Street and Takoma stops will become smaller theaters of battle, as well.

What started with ads in four Metro stations from the American Freedom Defense Initiative has quickly blown into competing messaging campaigns that include more ads, some ad makeovers, petitions and heated press releases over the initial text: "In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."

The war of words
Text of competing ads in Metro:
» "In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad." - American Freedom Defense Initiative
» "Show forgiveness, speak for justice and avoid the ignorant." - Council on American-Islamic Relations
» "Hate speech is not civilized. Support peace in word and deed." - Coalition of 24 religious groups

Metro tried to delay posting the ads last month, arguing that they were a threat to riders' safety amid global unrest over the Mideast conflict. But a federal court ruled that further delay would be a violation of the First Amendment. Metro posted the ads Oct. 8 at the Glenmont, Takoma, U Street and Georgia Avenue stops.

On Monday a coalition of 24 religious groups said it is starting a counter-ad campaign at the Glenmont, Takoma and Woodley Park Metro stations, reading, "Hate speech is not civilized. Support peace in word and deed." The Council on American-Islamic Relations said Friday it is taking out three counter-ads at the Glenmont, U Street and Georgia Avenue stations showing a verse from the Koran stating: "Show forgiveness, speak for justice and avoid the ignorant."

The original ads have gotten some makeovers, too. A school teacher covered one sign with Post-it notes urging people to love their Jewish, Muslim and Christian neighbors. Two other ads were covered with signs saying "Hate Speech."

The controversy has encouraged a boycott of Metro and spawned petitions. The religious coalition organized a petition signed by 168 religious groups calling for Metro to forgo profits from the AFDI ads by donating the $5,600 in ad revenue it earned.

Meanwhile, a competing group calling itself the Freedom Coalition said Monday that it will be asking Metro to post alternate messages on the CAIR ads, plus "work closely with organizations representing people who have been victimized by jihad and Sharia" and provide free space for another round of ads "promoting understanding of the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat" to the D.C. region.

Metro said it has no plans to post alternate statements, donate ad proceeds or offer space to the groups.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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Kytja Weir

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner