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A Group of Artists Just Replaced the MTA’s Ads With Pro-Palestine Posters

“We’re a bunch of New Yorkers trying to take back this public space and make a message.”

(Hell Gate)

Late last night, an autonomous group of activists placed posters throughout the subway system, blocking out advertisements with their own materials protesting Israel's bombing campaign in Gaza. 

One group of about a dozen gathered deep in the Bronx, obscuring their faces with N95s and hoodies. One person wore sunglasses even in the dead of night. Lookouts peered around for cops and for cars with digital ads. Finally, they boarded a 4 train car, and when the doors closed, they sprang into action, pulling ratchets and screwdrivers out of tote bags and hastily undoing the metal and plastic cages that housed the advertisements.

Over lottery ads, they shoved images of devastated city blocks in Gaza and warnings to riders that their taxes were funding genocide. Tinder ads with couples in neon clothing were replaced by black posters with the words of a grieving Gazan mother and the text from a Facebook post by Aaron Bushnell, the United States airman who self-immolated in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. last week. 

(Hell Gate)

"Ads as a medium have been weaponized in the last four or five months," one of the organizers told Hell Gate, pointing to an ad the Israeli government paid to play during the Super Bowl. "We're fighting back for our own public space. We're a bunch of New Yorkers trying to take back this public space and make a message."

(Hell Gate)

Some posters mimicked the style of the MTA's Poetry in Motion displays, replacing the milquetoast verses with works by Palestinian poets.

(Hell Gate)

"Our politicians aren't doing anything, our leaders aren't doing anything, celebrities aren't doing anything," the organizer said. "But when you ask most people, they're on our side. So we're trying to do something symbolic, and we also want to get people involved, ultimately." 

The group planned to transfer at Yankee Stadium, so they hurried as the robotic announcer counted down the street numbers to 161st, snapping plastic covers back into place and handing each other screws. Unhoused riders who had eyed the group suspiciously, upon seeing what they were up to, had gone back to sleep. The doors opened, and all at once they were gone.

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