27th September 2012, 14:30 GMT
On Tuesday, the 25th of September, Mona Eltahawy was arrested in New York after “spraying graffiti” over subway ads. The award-winning Egyptian-American journalist found the posters that equated Muslims with “savages” particularly racist and offensive – and did something about it –
by whipping out pink spray paint and attempting to cover the hateful posters.
Initially, the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) didn’t want to display the ads for fear they would cause undue controversy. Yet their hands were forced when the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an anti Muslim group led by a Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer took the MTA to court and Judge Paul Engelmeyer ruled in AFDI’s favour. According to a 2010 article written by By Anne Barnard and Alan Feuer in the New York Times, Anders Gravers Pedersen of Stop Islamization of Europe (SIOE) asked for AFDI to be created as the American chapter.
While Mona worked to remove the smut from the MTA subway walls, where over 11 million people travel each day, Pamela Hall ambushed her, shrieking “Do you think you have a right to do this?” To that Mona replied “I do actually. I think this is freedom of expression, just as the this [gesturing to the ad] is freedom of expression”. Mona stood her ground, repeatedly referring to the poster as “racism” and championing her right to non-violent protest by covering up the smut. When Hall said Mona had “some nerve”,
Mona replied “You know what I have? I have an understanding of racism”.
Hall became aggressive, and began to approach her and physically stop her by grabbing her arms, to which Mona said she would notify police if she continued her assault. Pamela Hall, president of SIOA (Stop The Islamization of America) was caught in the middle of Mona’s pink spray paint and the poster, and was unintentionally coloured in the milieu.
As some point in the altercation instigated by Hall, two police officers arrived and instead of moving Hall, they ordered Mona to put down the spray paint and prepare to be arrested. When Mona demanded to know her charge, while stunned onlookers stood and watched, the officers remained silent. At no time during the handcuffing of Mona did they utter an indication of a charge (which is required by US law), yet they vaguely made references to Mona having hurt Hall with the spray paint. While Mona maintained she “hurt no one” a spectator clapped approval. While being pushed away by the police, Mona stated “This is what happens in America when you non-violently protest”. Also, when Mona Eltahawy urged those watching to tweet that she was a 45-year-old Egyptian-American being arrested without charge, Pamela Hall smirked
“That’s why”, as if to infer that her ethnicity was the reason she was so upset about the poster.
Sorry Pamela, everyone with half a brain would no doubt take offense at the blatantly racist hate speech displayed on public subways. Proof positive; after Mona’s arrest, there have been a string of protests against the offensive posters. Many of the posters now have the word “racist” written over them.
In recent weeks prior to the incident with Mona, San Francisco, California, has seen the same ads defaced on buses with offensive wording scratched out.
Ms Eltahawy was eventually charged with criminal mischief and the act of graffiti.