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Milwaukee Common Council members call out billboard company after it rejects message from Jay-Z's Team ROC

Posted at 10:25 PM, Aug 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-22 23:25:36-04

MILWAUKEE — Nine members of the Milwaukee Common Council are calling for a billboard company to review its policies after it rejected a message from Jay-Z's social justice group about deadly police shootings.

Council members Kalif Rainey, Milele Coggs, Chantia Lewis, Russell Stamper, Cavalier Johnson, Nikiya Dodd, Ashanti Hamilton, Nik Kovac and Jose Perez sent out a statement that reads in part, "it is highly disturbing to learn that local billboard advertiser has rejected socially important ads relevant to the Black Lives Matter movement."

Rap artist Jay-Z's social justice group, Team ROC, wants billboard space along the highway near 84th Street for a message that reads, "Justice for Alvin Cole, Jay Andersson, Antonio Gonzales They did not deserve to die Officer Mensah must be held accountable."

Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah has been involved in three deadly shootings on the job. Two were ruled as justified shootings, and one is still under investigation. Mensah was suspended last month.

Lamar Advertising Company owns the billboard. Team ROC says the company refused its message.

A spokesperson for Lamar wrote in an email, "The billboard copy from Team ROC was vetted through our usual copy acceptance process and rejected on the basis that we do not post copy concerning potential crimes, unless there has been a judicial determination of guilt. Team ROC is welcome to resubmit amended copy that complies with our policies."

Team ROC came back with another billboard option, this time replacing the final sentence with this one: "Police officers shouldn't murder innocent people."

Team ROC said Lamar told them that message won't work either.

Team ROC's attorney, Jordan Siev, said copy about potential crimes is not included Lamar's copy acceptance policy. Siev said he believes it's a form of censorship.

"This is a hot button topic in the community, we understand that," Siev said. "And they don’t want to be associated with a billboard calling for action in connection with this matter, plain and simple."

Family, friends and supporters of the Cole, Anderson and Gonzales families have been marching in the streets and calling for justice.

Last month, Team ROC wrote a letter to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisolm calling for Mensah to be fired and prosecuted. Team ROC posted the letter as a full page ad in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Siev says he hopes Lamar will change its mind, and he said he doesn't anticipate trying out a third message.

A spokesperson for Lamar wrote in an email the company supports the First Amendment, and it allows political or editorial messages on its platforms.

"Lamar has accepted Black Lives Matter copy in the past, and we will continue to accept it," the spokesperson wrote.

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