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28th Street Billboard is altered with political message

June 30, 2012

Yesterday, we received pictures and a statement from an anonymous source about a Pure Michigan billboard ad on 28th Street near Division.

The Pure Michigan billboard featured a person kayaking in Lake Superior with a big Coca Cola logo. The billboard was altered with a quote from former Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, “Fascism is a merger of state and corporate power.”

The photos were sent to us with the following statement:

The Great Lakes State’s tourism office is advertising across the country the “Pure Michigan” experience thanks to cash from its corporate sponsor Coca Cola. Partnering with a company that has covered up the deaths of Colombian union leaders and encouraged droughts in India through water theft sends a twisted message to Michigan farmers, workers, residents and visitors.

Michigan residents must question such a relationship. We’re promised more revenue from tourism at the expense of blindly accepting this progression towards fascism, tying our (decreasingly) publicly elected leaders to exploitative corporate interests.  We’ve chosen to enhance Pure Michigan’s message with a quote from the 20th century’s most noted fascist. Michigan, beware.

The claims made against Coca Cola are verifiable. There has been an ongoing campaign to challenge Coca Cola in its role in the murder of dozens of union leaders at Coke bottling plants in Colombia, starting in the late 1990s. The Killer Coke Campaign has been effective in getting Coca Cola contracts discontinued at numerous universities across the country, along with activists engaging in direct action at shareholder meetings. The campaign has even produced a feature length documentary entitled, The Coca Cola Case.

The other claim of theft of water in India is also verifiable, based on the information at the site India Resource Center (IRC). According to the IRC:

Communities across India living around Coca-Cola’s bottling plants are experiencing severe water shortages, directly as a result of Coca-Cola’s massive extraction of water from the common groundwater resource. The wells have run dry and the hand water pumps do not work any more. Studies, including one by the Central Ground Water Board in India, have confirmed the significant depletion of the water table.

This is just one of the many claims from the IRC about the devastating impact that Coca Cola has on communities and farmers in India. However, the IRC is not the only entity to challenge Coca Cola’s theft of water. The US-based organization Food & Water Watch has also documented Coke’s abuses, particularly their bottle water brand Dasani.

In regards to the tactic of billboard alternation, it’s not a new tactic. In the US the Billboard Liberation Front has been altering billboards for decades and the feminist group the Guerrilla Girls has engaged in billboard alteration when those ads have been demeaning towards women.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Erin Clifford permalink
    June 30, 2012 9:52 pm

    Kudos to whoever hung the sign in the upper right hand corner of the billboard. I have become deeply concerned with fascist ideologies taking over the state of Michigan, and really, our entire country. From Public Act 4, to the cronies who are squelching the right to have a vote on it; from silencing two women who were elected to represent their constituents, to calling their efforts on the house floor “temper tantrums”; from giving a 1.8 billion dollar tax break to Michigan businesses, to taxing pensions, pretty much scrapping the earned income tax credit, and homestead property tax credit: from the lifting of the cap on cyber schools and charter schools, to the auctioning off of public schools and other public assets, Michigan is becoming the picture of crony capitalism and fascism.

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