Ad campaign triggers bomb scare in Boston
POSTED: 7:15 p.m. EST, January 31, 2007
BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Electronic light boards featuring an adult-cartoon character triggered bomb scares around Boston on Wednesday, spurring authorities to close two bridges and a stretch of the Charles River before determining the devices were harmless.
Turner Broadcasting Co., the parent company of CNN, said the battery-operated light boards were aimed at promoting the late-night Adult Swim cartoon "Aqua Teen Hunger Force." The devices had been placed around Boston and nine other cities as part of an "outdoor marketing campaign," a company statement said.
"While the concern is lessened as a result of the investigation, I'd like to remind citizens to treat any suspicious devices with care and to call 911 if any such device is found," Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said.
The devices had been placed as part of an "outdoor marketing campaign," a Turner Broadcasting statement said.
"Parent company Turner Broadcasting is in contact with local and federal law enforcement on the exact locations of the billboards," the statement said. "We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger." (Read the full statement)
The devices displayed one of the "Mooninites," outer-space delinquents who make frequent appearances on the cartoon, greeting passersby with a raised middle finger. Nine were reported around Boston on Wednesday, sending police bomb squads scrambling and snarling traffic and mass transit in one of the largest U.S. cities.
Boston police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll called Wednesday's incidents "a colossal waste of money." She had no immediate comment on whether any laws were broken but said police would investigate further.
And Rep. Ed Markey, the senior member of the state's House delegation, said, "Whoever thought this up needs to find another job."
"Scaring an entire region, tying up the T and major roadways, and forcing first responders to spend 12 hours chasing down trinkets instead of terrorists is marketing run amok," Markey, a Democrat, said in a written statement. "It would be hard to dream up a more appalling publicity stunt."
Turner said the devices had been in place for two to three weeks in Boston; New York; Los Angeles, California; Chicago, Illinois; Atlanta, Georgia; Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; San Francisco, California; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
A Turner Broadcasting source said the devices were a component of a third-party advertising campaign conducted by the New York advertising firm Interference Inc. That company had no comment on the incident.
The discovery of nine of the devices around metro Boston led state, local and federal authorities to close the Boston University and Longfellow Bridges, and block boat traffic from the Charles River to Boston Harbor.
In addition, the Pentagon said U.S. Northern Command was monitoring the situation from its headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but said none of its units were sent to assist.
Davis said police "are going to fully investigate this and get to the bottom of it."
The first suspicious device to be reported reported Wednesday morning was at the Sullivan Square commuter rail station, near the suburb of Somerville. Wednesday afternoon, four other devices were reported -- near the Longfellow and Boston University bridges over the Charles, at New England Medical Center and near the intersection of Stuart and Columbus avenues in the city.
Mayor Thomas Menino's office said nine of the light boards were found around metropolitan Boston.
"I want to be certain that we take all of these reports very seriously," Menino said in a written statement. "The coordinated response by all departments proves the system we have in place works."