A pair of activist groups have taken a tactic straight from the Oscar front-runner “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
The movie centers on a grieving mother, angry that the man who raped and killed her daughter still hasn’t been found and brought to justice after several months. In an effort to keep her daughter’s death from disappearing from everyone’s minds, she rents three billboards just outside of town, paints them bright red and writes a message in bold, black capital letters across all three: “Raped while dying,” “And still no arrests?” “How come, Chief Willoughby?”
In the film, they’re a visually striking form of protest, and in the past week, they have inspired at least two real-life responses to tragedies in Florida and England.
An activist group called Avaaz borrowed the idea to promote gun control in Florida, following last week’s school shooting that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla.
The group opted to use mobile billboards that were printed on the side of trucks to send its message to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
Like those in the movie, these were bright red with stark black lettering. They read: “Slaughtered in school,” “And still no gun control?” “How come, Marco Rubio?”
After the shooting, Rubio argued that gun restrictions wouldn’t have necessarily prevented the tragedy, CNN reported. It’s not the first time he said that gun control wouldn’t help prevent mass shootings.
Rubio did, however, recently say that he supports gun violence restraining-order laws, which allow authorities to seize firearms from certain people who exhibit dangerous or concerning behavior, The Washington Post reported.
Avaaz’s deputy director, Emma Ruby-Sachs, said she hoped the billboards would help convince Rubio to support gun control.
“The senator has taken fire across the country for his toothless response to the shooting, calling it ‘inexplicable.’ We call that inexcusable,” Ruby-Sachs told USA Today. “Florida has notoriously lax gun laws, and Rubio, who is supported by the NRA, has never attempted to reform them.”
The second example of reality imitating art appeared in London, where an activist group called Justice 4 Grenfell used the tactic to remind people of the deadly Grenfell Tower fire.
Authorities opened a public inquiry into the fire, but it has come under criticism from some survivors and neighborhood residents who don’t believe their voices are being adequately heard, The Washington Post has reported. Thus far, the inquiry has not produced any arrests. A hearing to review the progress of the first phase of the inquiry is scheduled for March 21 and 22.
Now, more than seven months after the fire, some feel that the tragedy is slipping from the public eye. Hence the billboards. These were also red with black lettering and placed on the side of small trucks. They read: “71 dead.” “And still no arrests?” “How come?”
Yvette Williams, who helped organize the billboards, said the goal was to keep people from being desensitized to the fire.
“When I watched the film, one of the things that stood out for me was that it’s really important to keep an issue around justice in the public eye,” Williams told the BBC. “We felt that it was really powerful.”
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