Avaaz: 3 Billboards Where Art and Life Meet

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It may be the yellow ribbon of a past era, this one going beyond iconic to a message that is loud and clear. It is life imitating art in a very unapologetic way.

Outside of Miami, Florida, three white box trucks are moved from street to street, always parked in the same order so the message – painted on their sides, in bold, black letters on a red background – is clear.

If that image sounds familiar, it’s because the strategy is pulled directly from “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The 2017 film won more than two dozen awards. In it, best actress winner Frances McDormand plays a woman whose daughter is raped and murdered. With no arrest months later, she rents billboards on the edge of a road and paints her message. The last one lays responsibility right at the lead investigator#s feet by asking, “How Come, Chief Willoughby?”

In Miami, it is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) whose feet are being held to the fire. The dramatic signage mimicks the movie’s, right down to the font. It is the perfect approach for the activist group Avaaz and it’s stated goal to bring “people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere.”

“Slaughtered in School,” “And Still No Gun Control,” “How Come Marco Rubio?” are their fighting words.

Provoked by his soft stance on gun control, even in the wake of 17 dead in the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the message is shouting as much at his constituents as it is Rubio.

Following what would be among the deadliest of school massacres, Rubio reiterated his belief that gun control is not the answer to preventing mass shootings. Call it honesty or undue influence by a supporter, the NRA, it comes down to a matter of timing. For the senator, not good in the face of emotions running at their peak, yet, a seize the day moment for groups like Avaaz who look for ways to motivate an often complacent, uninformed public, and keep issues in front of the press.

Gun control is an issue that polarizes America, a constitutional right that is black and white for some and a matter of interpretation for others. Both sides should be asking, ‘Can we put laws on the books that work toward effective gun control?’

Rubio advocates for gun violence restraining-order laws that allow authorities to seize firearms from someone taken into custody whose behavior or mental status is suspect. Just five weeks after Parkland, 18-year old Zachary Cruz, the brother of shooter Nikolas Cruz, was arrested for trespassing at the high school, where he said he had gone several times to contemplate the events of that day. On the same day, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office filed a risk protection order under the new Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which went into effect in early March. It will be up to the court to decide how long it will be before Cruz can again legally possess firearms.

In this too-much information age, cranking up the volume and outrageousness may be necessary to get people “woke.”

The day before the Avaaz billboards debuted, a similar set appeared in London, England.


ALSO READ:While Others Sleep, Avaaz Looks Out for the Interests of the British Public

 

In June 2017, 71 people died in the Grenfell Tower fire. Although a short in a refrigerator condensor motor in a fourth floor flat was the source, cheap, higly-flammable exterior cladding applied in a remodel acted as an accelerant, turning the 24-story building into a torch. The case remains open while more than 60 companies involved in the construction, refurbishment and management of the building are investigated.

The powerful message in the film motivated the group Justice 4 Grenfell to emblazon their message on the side of three trucks, reading, “71 dead,” “And still no arrests?” “How come?”

 

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