NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union launched a campaign today to remind the public about its First Amendment rights and to reassure immigrants that they too are protected by the Constitution.
The campaign kicked off with the unveiling of electronic billboards featuring the First Amendment in Arabic, English, and Spanish in New York’s Times Square and at bus stops in Washington, D.C. The First Amendment in all three languages will also be displayed on a fence in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, and on a wall in the arts district of downtown Los Angeles. Additional ads may appear in other cities and in other languages in the coming days and weeks.
“This campaign is intended to remind people that the Constitution is for all of us. It doesn’t matter who you are or what language you speak. ‘We the People’ means everyone,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU.
The idea for the campaign came about shortly after Donald Trump was elected president on a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment and a pledge to ban Muslims from entering the United States. It was conceived of by the agency Emergence Creative, who approached the ACLU with the idea in December 2016.
In addition to protecting freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to peaceably protest, the First Amendment protects the right to practice your religion and not be discriminated against for doing so.
“From his attempted Muslim ban to his calls for media suppression to his remarks endorsing the use of violence against those who protest against him, President Trump has shown disdain for the rights and freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment, so we thought it was a good time to remind people of these rights,” Romero said.
Several advertising vendors refused to run the campaign. Representatives who handle advertising space for New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority and Washington D.C.’s Metropolitan Area Transit Authority declined, saying they did “not accept issue oriented advertising.” However, the vendors who did offer space did so at a substantial discount in part because they wanted to support the effort.
The First Amendment ads will run in Times Square through June, appearing twice an hour for 15 seconds on the electronic billboard at Reuters Digital Tower, 3 Times Square. The ads in Washington D.C. will appear on 30 bus shelters across the city for four weeks.
Any advertisers who would like to donate space should contact the ACLU.
Photos of the billboards for use by the media are available here:
Video of reaction to the billboards is available here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/jdh7g664wrrt8nd/AABEO7B4U08Z9Cl3EWn5xJrza?dl=0