In the days after September 11, 2001, government-sponsored mottoes like “United We Stand” became code language for the sinister notion that to critique government policy is to be a disloyal American. In the face of a heavy-handed attempt to silence free speech, City Lights inaugurated our Storefront Banner Series (shown above in a photo from October 2001) with a bold assertion of our First Amendment right to question the policies and actions of our government, one of America’s most basic and most critical freedoms.
As we anticipate the inauguration of a president and administration whose approach to dissenting opinion may become even more heavy-handed, we intend to do our part to defend our right to read, write, gather, debate and dissent. We are convinced of the need to nurture and protect peoples’ ability to think critically, to discern truth, and to communicate knowledge, and we believe that these qualities are basic to an empowered citizenry, essential to the future of a democratic society. In this, along with you, we stand united.
— From City Lights Newsletter, December 2016