New York – An Egyptian-American award-winning journalist was reportedly arrested Tuesday after spray-painting one of the controversial new ads equating Muslims with ‘savages’ that debuted Monday in NYC subway stations.
Police said Mona Eltahawy, an international lecturer on Arab and Muslim issues, was arrested Tuesday on charges allegedly including criminal mischief, making graffiti and possession of a graffiti instrument, The Huffington Post reported.
Pamela Geller, the executive director of American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) — classified as an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League — orchestrated the ad campaign.
The New York Post recorded the exchange and arrest on video, showing 45-year old Eltahawy, spraying over the subway ad, as another woman, Pamela Hall, accosted Eltahawy, who attempted to physically block her from spraying the poster.
Geller identifies Hall on her Atlas Shrugged blog as working underground “hitting the subway stations in pursuit of our anti-jihad ads,” she writes.
The video, now posted online, catches 45-year-old Eltahawy strolling up to one of the signs at the crowded 1/2/3 train mezzanine at the Times Square station and started spraying pink paint on the ad.
“Mona, do you think you have the right to do this?” demanded Hall.
“I do actually,” Eltahawy calmly responded. “I think this is freedom of expression, just as this is freedom of expression.”
“You do not have the right!” Hall said.
“I do, actually, and I’m doing it right now, and you should get out of the way,” Eltahawy said. “Do you want paint on yourself?”
The heated exchange continued. Hall poked Eltahawy with her video camera stick. Eltahawy pushing her out of the way.
Finally a MTA police officer and an NYPD cop came to scene and arrested Eltahawy.
As she was handcuffed, she shouted, “This is a non-violent protest. You see this, America. This is what happens to non-violent protesters in America, in 2012.”
“I’m an Egyptian-American and I refuse hate,” Eltahawy said, as police escorted her away.
The Post said that Eltahawy’s arrest capped a day of widespread vandalism targeting the controversial ads.
Shortly before 3pm Tuesday, before going to Times Square, Eltahawy tweeted “Meetings done; pink spray paint time. #ProudSavage #F**kHate.”
Later, Eltahawy updated her fans.
“I’m OK,” Eltahawy wrote on her Twitter page just before 10pm central standard time. “Held overnight 2 c a judge in the AM. Crim. mischief is a misdemeanor not felony. Thx 4 support! Mona #FreeMona #ProudSavage,” she tweeted.
The “Savage” ads have been altered in at least seven of the 10 New York subway stations since Monday, according to the blog Mondoweiss.net.