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Misconstrued terrorist threat signs
igniting uproar in Boston
make no splash in San Francisco

By Elizabeth Daley, Bay City News Service

Feburary 2, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - After searching for 20 small glowing signs placed in San Francisco as a cartoon publicity campaign that in Boston became misconstrued as a terrorist threat, a local resident came forward with what police could not: evidence.

The ad campaign with billboards and signs depicting an animated character making an obscene gesture were largely disregarded in San Francisco, but in Boston they were reportedly blamed for significant disruptions leading to $750,000 in public costs. Boston police arrested two people for distributing the signs, according to reports.

San Francisco police Sgt. Neville Gittens said not a trace remained of the signs planted by the Cartoon Network as publicity for their animated television show with adult themes, "Aqua Teen Hunger Force."

Gittens said the signs were scheduled for removal on Wednesday night by Interference Inc., the New York based agency that created them.

After visiting locations where the signs were allegedly placed and finding none, Gittens said no more resources will be spent on the matter.

"They said they were going to remove them and they did. End of story," said Gittens, who was asked how police involvement in the matter began.

Cartoon Network owner Turner Broadcasting System Inc. CEO Phil Kent released a statement of apology for the publicity stunt, saying, "As soon as we realized that an element of the campaign was being mistaken for something potentially dangerous, appropriate law enforcement officials were notified through Federal law enforcement channels, we identified the specific locations of the advertisements in all 10 cities in which they are posted. We also directed the third party firm who posted the advertisements to take them down immediately."

"We appreciate the gravity of this situation and, like any responsible company would, are putting all necessary resources toward understanding the facts surrounding it as quickly as possible," Kent said.

Jamie Alexander, owner of Park Life, a San Francisco-based store and art gallery said he was graced with the glowing mystery sign about one week ago.

Alexander said he noticed the sign affixed to an old metal "Busvan for Bargains" sign above the store at 220 Clement St. Alexander did not know what the sign was but "terrorism was the last thing on my mind," he said.

"It's a light-up robot."

The fact that it was perceived as terrorism "makes me think people are taking things a little too seriously," said Alexander. "Unfortunately a person in Boston who wasn't too hip saw it first."

Alexander said he initially thought the sign was " some sort of street art," but took the sign down after the batteries ran out.

"I kind of feel sorry for the guy that did it all because he's got to take the fall, and it was kind of clever actually," said Alexander who, though familiar with the cartoon, did not connect it to the publicity stunt.

As for the sign, "I am holding on to it for now," said Alexander who has not decided whether or not to sell it on eBay or display it in his Richmond district store. Alexander says if authorities come to take it he is not going to give it to them "I am going to tell them I lost it," he said.

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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