A federal judge ruled this afternoon that King County had a reasonable basis to refuse Metro bus ads accusing Israel of war crimes. In his 18-page decision (.pdf), US District Court Judge Richard Jones said the county faced a legitimate risk of service disruption caused by several threats.
Specifically, he wrote that King County received: "(1) Threats of violence or disruption from the public; (2) Threatening photographs of attacked buses left anonymously at Metro offices; (3) Safety concerns raised by twenty bus drivers; (4) Inflammatory counter-advertisements proposed; (5) Advice of law-enforcement officials; and (6) A report of the advertisement on a terrorist-related website."
Some of the threats I reported earlier this month: "You want WAR against the Jewish people? YOU GOT IT!" one person wrote to Metro. While others, according to a court brief filed by King County Prosecuting Attorney's office, said, "If you run these ads we will … shut metro down," and, "KC ATTY IS FORCING ME TO VIOLENCE." One person sent photos of gored corpses in bombed out buses with handwriting that said, "No to bus ads for Muslim terrorists."
The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign paid to run ads in December, but County Executive Dow Constantine blocked them due to an unspecified threat of service disruptions. In attempt to overturn that decision, the ACLU of Washington filed a lawsuit on the group's behalf, arguing King County violated the Constitution by refusing to post the ads only after they proved controversial.
Today's decision rejected the group's request for a preliminary injunction, which, if had gone the other way, would force the county to run the ads. The case will proceed.
“We are pleased with the court’s finding that the decision to pull the ad was reasonable," said King County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in an unenlightening statement, adding, “This decision is good for transit and good for the people of King County.” Meanwhile, the ACLU has not responded yet to a request for an equally flavorless comment.