Holocaust deniers are advertising on the San Francisco metro system
San Francisco, CA – A San Francisco public transit agency has approved adverts from a group that promotes Holocaust denial and antisemitic views, claiming the organization has a “free speech” right to buy train station billboards.
Bay Area Rapid Transit (Bart) officials defended their decision to allow ads for the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has classified as a hate group that aims to “defend Nazism” and spread Holocaust denial propaganda.
The electronic billboards, which say “History Matters!” and provide the name of the California-based organization, are in rotation at two Bart stations in San Francisco. They come at a time when antisemitic incidents have accelerated at alarming rates in the US and across the world, and as far-right groups and neo-Nazis have increasingly pushed racist and fascist views under the guise of advocating for free speech.
“We cannot deny the ads,” a Bart spokeswoman, Alicia Trost, said in an interview on Tuesday, noting that the agency does not endorse the message or group. “You have to look at it for exactly what words are used and what images are used … There is plenty of case law and court rulings that show if you deny the ad, you can be taken to court, and you’ll lose, and that’s obviously costly.”
The ads, which are running for most of September in the Powell and Montgomery stations, have prompted some backlash from the public, said Trost: “When people look into it, they are upset about the ads, which is understandable.”
We don’t endorse these ads. Free speech court rulings against transit agencies that have denied ads have made it clear that we must post these ads and allow advertisers to express a point of view without regard to the viewpoint.— SFBART (@SFBART) September 12, 2018
Yes we sought legal advice in an effort to reject them. We even made the group remove their website url based on the content of the website. They did but what was left "History Matters Institute for Historical Review" couldn't be rejected and are protected by free speech rulings.— SFBART (@SFBART) September 12, 2018