The distributor of rap star 50 Cent's upcoming film said yesterday (Oct. 27) it was taking down some movie billboards near Los Angeles-area schools after community leaders complained they glorify gang

The distributor of rap star 50 Cent's upcoming film said yesterday (Oct. 27) it was taking down some movie billboards near Los Angeles-area schools after community leaders complained they glorify gangs and violence.

Posters for "Get Rich or Die Tryin"' show the chart-topping rapper stripped to the waist in a crucifixion-like pose with his tattooed, bullet-scarred back to the camera and arms outstretched, holding a microphone in one hand and a gun in the other.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich sent a letter to distributor Paramount Pictures urging the billboards be yanked, starting with one outside a public school in Altadena, a suburb north of Los Angeles.

"This billboard conveys to the students a disturbing message actively promoting gun violence, criminal behavior and gang affiliation, he wrote in the letter to Paramount Motion Pictures Group Chairman Brad Gray.

Antonovich said the billboard outside the school for sixth through 12th graders was particularly egregious because the community had recently mounted an anti-gang campaign.

Activists in the south-central L.A. neighborhood of Hyde Park, another community plagued by gang violence, staged a rally on Tuesday calling on Paramount to remove a billboard next to a preschool. The sign was taken down the next day.

A spokesperson for Paramount, a unit of Viacom Inc., told Reuters that additional billboards were being pulled on Thursday. A studio source added that proximity to schools was a factor in deciding which ones to remove.

Najee Ali, who organized Tuesday's protest, welcomed Paramount's response as a "David versus Goliath" victory.

"We have a community group going up against a major studio, and they backed down," he said. "So everyone was ... happy with Paramount Pictures, and we commend them for showing corporate responsibility."

The R-rated film, whose title is taken from 50 Cent's major-label debut album, is due to open Nov. 9. In U.S. theaters It stars the rap artist, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, in a biographical story about a drug dealer who abandons crime and violence to pursue a music career.


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