Anti-Muslim ‘Savage’ Ads Invade DC’s Metro

After a slight delay, the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority has posted the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s anti-Muslim advertisements in four DC Metro subway stations. WMATA last month delayed displaying the ads — which refer to Muslims as “savages” — on the grounds that they could be seen as incitement in a time of global tensions after the attacks on U.S. embassies in the Middle East.

ADFI, led by Pamela Geller, sued WMATA to have the advertisements posted immediately, as any delay was a violation of the group’s First Amendment rights. In a one-page order issued on Friday, District Judge Rosemary Collyer ordered WMATA to display the ads by no later than October 5.

WMATA has complied with the District Court’s order, leading the ads to be posted in four DC Metro stations for the next month: Takoma Park, Glenmont, Georgia Ave/Petworth, and U Street/Cardoza. At the time of publishing, WMATA did not respond to an inquiry about why it chose to place the ads in these locations.

An appeal to have the ads remain free from defacement ran on the Washington Post’s website on Monday. Similar ads in New York and San Fransisco have been the target of constant defacement, being labeled as “racist” and “hate speech.” Despite the appeal, several of the signs have already been creatively revised, as in the case of the advertisement at the Takoma Park station:


Debbie Polhemus, of D.C., covered up the letters of the ad, which read “In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

The high school teacher said she wanted to counteract the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s right to free speech with her own right to free speech, all without actually defacing the sign. “This is a public space, and we don’t like hate speech,” she told The Washington Examiner. “And not to do anything would be to allow this speech. … It would be hurtful.”

Her message at the Takoma Metro station on the Red Line instead included: “If you see something hateful say something peaceful.”

The ads in New York have also been countered by anti-hate speech advertisements purchased by the United Methodist Women and other religious groups.