Artists respond to hate-speech ads with “fabulous” alterations

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When it comes to countering hate speech, there's nothing like creative expression mixed with direct action. Activists affiliated with art collectives Bay Area Art Queers Unleashing Power (BAAQUP) and Street Cred declared yesterday to be “Hate Free Monday,” and celebrated by modifying hate speech ads recently plastered on Muni buses.

Purchased by the pro-Israeli American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), the ads contain bigoted, inflammatory quotations directed at LGBT people, attributed to prominent Muslims. Although city officials have condemned the advertisements, they were nevertheless allowed to be displayed because Muni determined them to be within First Amendment guidelines.

Headed by conservative blogger Pamela Geller, AFDI has been deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. Geller herself is the target of the activists' handiwork.

“We believe that all public spaces, including public transit, should be welcoming and safe for all members of our community,” the artists, who did not give their names, wrote to the Guardian in a statement sent from baqupower@gmail.com. “The hate-filled messages purchased by Pamela Geller’s AFDI defame and vilify Muslims and are harmful and offensive to residents and visitors in San Francisco, both Muslim and non-Muslim. 
Since the city will not take action against these ads on city buses, we have.”

To read BAAQUP’s full description of the motivations behind their action, go here.

Their statement concludes: “As long as these advertising outrages continue to appear on our streets, we will continue to reconstitute them to reflect something more truthful, just, and ideally fabulous.”