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Gunslinging Movie Billboards Banned in High-Crime Neighborhoods

July 15, 1994

BOSTON (AP) _ Jacqueline Mohamed hated having Harrison Ford aim a gun at her as she walked around her neighborhood. For Marcy Jackson, it was seeing a pistol- packing Eddie Murphy smile over the scene of a street shooting.

So the two women acted. And their actions, eventually, got results.

Billboards showing people with guns have been banished from 15 locations in the Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan sections of Boston. Other Boston-area neighborhoods where real firearms wreak havoc may follow.

″If you want us to advertise Eddie Murphy, don’t put a gun in his hand,″ Lou Nickinello of Ackerley Communications said Friday after his company put the new policy into effect.

The Outdoor Advertising Association of America said it was unaware of a similar practice among its 2,400 members, although voluntary guidelines exist to keep liquor and tobacco ads away from schools and churches.

Ackerley of Massachusetts is a division of Ackerley Communications Inc., a Seattle-based company with billboards in Florida, Washington State and Oregon. But the decision Nickinello announced Thursday covers only a tiny fraction of the 1,200 billboards owned by his Massachusetts division, and he admits he’s unwilling to reject the ads altogether.

That, he said, would be economic and professional suicide. But he said he will extend the number of billboards based on recommendations from police and community groups.

″I’m not going to be everybody’s censor,″ he said. ″I’m going to identify certain areas of my market as no advertising zones for those kinds of images.″

Civil libertarians are concerned at what appears to be censorship targeted at neighborhoods largely populated by minorities. But Mohamed and other neighborhood activists said cleaning up the billboards was their idea. ″We’re the ones who highlighted the issue,″ said Mohamed, whose Coalition of Family Concerns in Dorchester has been pushing Ackerley to remove the billboards since 1990.

Mohamed first contacted the company regarding the movie ″Patriot Games.″ She said the ad showing Ford pointing a gun at viewers was eerie.

″We have many moms and families who are mourning the loss of their sons in our community,″ she said. ″We believe the billboards glamorize guns.″

Jackson, an assistant state attorney general, drove past the Murphy billboard in Dorchester in May. At the time, she was prosecuting a shooting that had taken place there and left one Dorchester man partly paralyzed.

She said Ackerley changed the billboard - but not until the offending ad had run its course.

″I’d like to get rid of all of the advertisements that show anybody holding a gun with a big smile on their face,″ Jackson said. ″I don’t think they’re positive images no matter where they’re displayed.″

Jackson and others said the images were particularly offensive in neighborhoods where young men are killing and being killed with handguns.

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