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Muni to consider banning political advertising on buses

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An advertising campaign by the American Freedom Defense Initiative is seen on the side of a Muni bus August 14, 2012/ (Mike Koozmin/2012 S.F. Examiner)

Ads on the sides of Muni buses supporting Israel and calling unnamed enemies “savage” while also claiming hatred of Jews is “in the Quran” drew rebuke citywide for years.

Now San Francisco may ban such political speech on Muni bus advertisements and other transit property when the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors votes on a policy revision Tuesday.

The vote would specifically amend the SFMTA’s advertising policy to prohibit advertisements that “concern a political or public issue,” contain profanity or violent descriptions, or are “adverse to the interests of the SFMTA,” according to a staff report.

The staff report added it is considering revising its own ad policy “in response to other large U.S. transit agencies deciding to restrict the type of content permitted in their advertising space.”

If approved, the ban would take effect Wednesday.

The controversial ads are a project of the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Its president, Pamela Geller, reportedly told Breitbart News in 2016 that San Francisco is among the last major cities to not ban political speech.

That sort of Ban, Geller told Breitbart, is “a ban on the truth, in accordance with Sharia. They say it’s hate speech but that’s the euphemistic narrative. It’s like putting a pretty white bow on a steaming pile of dung.”

Since last year, the SFMTA met with a number of groups concerning the ad policy, including the Asian Law Caucus, the local branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the San Francisco Interfaith Council.

“The Advertising Policy was revised in response to feedback and comments from these groups,” the SFMTA wrote.

In 2015 a group called “Street Cred – Advertising for the People” announced an anti-ad campaign to splash Marvel Comics prominent Muslim superhero, Kamala Khan, also known as Ms. Marvel, on top of the controversial ads.

Alongside Ms. Marvel read messages including, “STAMP OUT RACISM,” “FREE SPEECH ISN’T A LICENSE TO SPREAD HATE,” and “Islamophobia hurts us all.”

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