Mona Eltahawy: MTA may discuss ad regulations after ‘racist’ ad furor, activist’s arrest

Mona Eltahawy was arrested after spray painting over a subway ad and a heated confrontation with another woman.

As outrage continues over a series of subway ads that depict jihad as “savage,” the MTA may consider revising its policy on subway ads when the board meets Thursday, an MTA spokesman told Metro.

But the spokesman said it’s too premature to speculate what kind of specific changes could be discussed.

Last year, the MTA brought in $120 million in advertising revenue. A small portion of that revenue comes from non-commercial ads — ads that aren’t selling something, but carry a message, such as the controversial signs up now.

Several groups upset with the ads also said they plan on protesting Thursday morning when the MTA board meets at 9:30 a.m. at the transit agency’s Midtown offices at 347 Madison Avenue.

The International Action Center, an anti-war group, is planning to stage a protest against the ads, which remain up in 10 Manhattan subway stations. On Monday night, at least six of the 10 ads were covered by stickers that read “racist” or “hate speech.”

“This week the MTA issued another slap in the face to its riders,” the IAC said in a statement. “As if the new round of fare hikes weren’t enough, it carried racist, anti-Muslim ads in ten NY subway stations.”

Writer and political activist Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-born U.S. citizen, was arrested Tuesday night in the Times Square station after attempting to spray-paint over one of 10 ads that refer to jihad as “savage.”

Armed with a video camera, Pamela Hall, a Manhattan woman, put herself between Eltahawy and the ad in an attempt to prevent her from defacing it. Undeterred, Eltahawy warned Hall to get out of the way or get sprayed. She then sprayed paint at Hall when she refused to move. After the heated confrontation continued, Eltahawy was handcuffed by two police officers who stayed quiet when she demanded to know why she was under arrest.  

Eltahawy was in court yesterday morning on a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief, according to her Twitter account. Meanwhile, Hall uploaded her video of the confrontation to YouTube.

Is MTA responsible for the ads?

The MTA initially rejected the ads when the American Freedom Defense Initiative, headed by Pamela Geller, tried to purchase them.

The MTA lost the case in federal court in July on grounds of free speech.

But the IAC said it is still holding the transit authority responsible for the ads.

“Their official stance on [the ads] is that their hands are tied, but they say that whenever they do something people don’t like,” IAC spokesman Tony Murphy told Metro. “I don’t really trust what the MTA says.”

[View the story "Mona Eltahawy" on Storify]


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