By Keith Ervin Seattle Times – 19 Jan 2011
The ACLU of Washington filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against King County over the decision to cancel a bus ad that alleges Israeli war crimes.
The lawsuit claims that King County violated the First Amendment rights of the group that sought to place the ad on the sides of Metro Transit buses.
Metro’s initial acceptance of the ad from the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign touched off an onslaught of complaints by e-mail and phone, and three other organizations said they planned to run counter-ads portraying Israel as a victim of Palestinian terrorism.
Metro and County Executive Dow Constantine initially said the ad was consistent with county ad standards and it would violate the sponsor’s free-speech rights to cancel it.
A few days later, Metro canceled the ad and said it wouldn’t accept any new noncommercial advertising until the county adopted a new ad policy. The ad never appeared.
“The escalation of this issue from one of 12 local bus placards to a widespread and often vitriolic international debate introduces new and significant security concerns that compel reassessment,” Constantine said in a statement supporting Metro’s cancellation of the ad, which showed children looking at a bomb-damaged building and these words: “Israeli war crimes — Your tax dollars at work.”
Constantine said at the time he had consulted with federal and local law-enforcement authorities “who have expressed concern, in the context of this international debate, that our public transportation system could be vulnerable to disruption.”
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