Wednesday, March 9, 2011

US group fights ban on Israel 'war crime' bus ads/Charges dropped against Olympia, WA activists


Published on France24 (

US group fights ban on Israel 'war crime' bus ads

By blade

Created 08/03/2011 - 04:41

A US lobby group is taking legal action to challenge a local authority's refusal to let it put posters on Seattle buses criticizing Israel's "war crimes" in Gaza.

The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SMAC) vowed to pursue a lawsuit, despite a judge's refusal to force officials who run the bus system in Seattle and surrounding suburbs to allow the posters to be displayed.

In December, the group paid King County authorities nearly $1,800 to put ads on the sides of 12 Seattle-area metro buses reading: "Israeli War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars at Work," with a picture of a bombed out Gaza wall.

The ads were meant to coincide with the anniversary of a 22-day attack on Gaza by Israel that left 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead in 2008, according to SMAC organizer Ed Mast.

The planned ads triggered more than 2,000 calls and e-mails to King County's elected officials and transportation department, mostly negative, according to a local authority spokeswoman.

While anyone can buy ad space on public buses, King County bans any statements that "incite or produce imminent lawless action in the form of retaliation, vandalism or other breach of public safety, peace and order."

Citing those rules, King County executive Dow Constantine stopped the ads before they appeared.

Condemning the decision as a violation of SMAC's First Amendment rights, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in federal court, but Judge Richard Jones last month denied an injunction to force the county to allow the ads.

SMAC vowed to not give up, and planned to take the case further in the court system. "By going to trial, the lawsuit will be more fully argued," Mast said.

Wendy Dore, spokeswoman for the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, said the group welcomed the February ruling, and had hoped it would put the issue to rest.

"The whole issue really came down not so much to a freedom of speech issue, but did these ads pose a potential threat and were they potentially disrupting service," she said Monday.

The ACLU's Washington state branch head Kathleen Taylor added: "It is a sad day when the county that is named after Martin Luther King Jr. fails to stand up for the right to express controversial ideas."

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March 7, 2011


Update from Matt and Maggi Support Committee


The Matt and Maggi Support Committee is excited to announce that the perjury charges against two of our favorite Olympia activists have been dropped. Matt Duran and Margaret Belknap were arrested at a protest against police violence that took place last April in Olympia. They were rounded up with 27 other people (The State Street 29) in a mass arrest. Several people were singled out for more serious charges including Maggi. She was charged with an assault of an officer, which translated more accurately to “assault by an officer” after she was beaten and pepper-balled while fully complying with the instructions given to her by the cops.


While they didn’t say it outright, it’s clear that the prosecutor’s decision to drop the charges was based on their inability to intimidate our friends, the embarrassing lack of evidence, the public awareness of this politically-motivated case, and the defense lawyers who schooled them.


While the charges have been dropped, we still have approximately $2,000 in legal fees to pay. This means that we are not done. We can never recover the time or money that was spent fighting these bogus charges, but we can make alleviate their impact by making sure Matt and Maggi don’t have to stay in debt. While the situation is no longer as urgent as it used to be, we all have an obligation to make sure they aren’t left with a fat legal bill at the end of this,.


We would like to thank the countless donors who have helped us get this far including those who loaned us money for the initial costs. Your help has been invaluable and your solidarity sets a great example to others in our movement. For those (especially in our area) who haven’t donated any money yet, now is the time to do so!


We are asking that people chip in what they can to help cover this final bill. If by some miracle, we receive more money than we need, we will send back what we are able and use the rest to pay for lawyers for those who have been arrested over the past month in demonstrations against the police in Seattle.


Our goal is that by April 8th, the one year anniversary of the arrest of Matt and Maggi, we will have all the money we need to dissolve the campaign and get back to our organizing work.


People can paypal donations to mattandmaggi[at] If you would like to mail a check, cash, or money order, please mail them to:


Alex Bryan

PO Box 1806

Olympia, WA 98507


We prefer checks are made to Alex Bryan since we don’t need to use the joint account to cash them. If you feel more comfortable, they can be written to “State Street 29 Support Committee”.


Matt and Maggi have history of community service and activism in Olympia. On a weekly basis, you can find them volunteering at Media Island, a local activist networking center and community library located across from the Olympia Timberland Library. Maggi was a founding member of Port Militarization Resistance, Olympia SDS, and the Olympia Street Medics. She has also been extensively involved in EGYHOP, a street outreach organization. Matt volunteers weekly at the Olympia Food Co-op and has been organizing copwatches in response to events such as Artswalk prior to which the Olympia Police Department can be found harassing homeless people and violating their rights on a daily basis in order to “clean up” downtown.


At her assault trial, Maggi testified that she didn’t assault the officer as did Matt, who was a witness to her arrest. The prosecution called the alleged victim and one other officer to testify. The witness called by the prosecution, who was standing next to the officer during the arrest proceedings, said he couldn’t say for sure if an assault had occurred. Maggi was acquitted of one charge of assault and convicted of the other.


After serving her time in jail, she and Matt were charged with felony perjury. The charge carries a “suggested sentence” of 6-12 months which is in the same range as crimes such as child molestation, rape, and kidnapping.  At this point in time, the Matt and Maggi support committee was formed to raise the approximately $5,000 in initial legal fees that they would need. With this money, they vigorously fought the charges. Meanwhile, we ran a campaign to get people to call the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office and raise public awareness about this attempt to persecute two effective activists.


You can find out more about the case at

Contact: mattandmaggi{at}


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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