Legalize LA

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Legalize LA was an activist campaign promoting amnesty for illegal immigrants, propagated through billboards, protests, clothing, advertisements, educational pamphlets, and grass roots support, underwritten by American Apparel.[1][2] Originating locally in Downtown Los Angeles, the company took the campaign national in early 2008.[2]


Legalize LA was billed as an education and media advertising campaign.[1] According to Dov Charney, Legalize LA was an open alternative to private lobbying.[2] Charney also stated that the cause is part of the core of the company.[3] Choosing to advertise social causes not directly related to the fashion company's product has drawn comparisons to campaigns done by advertisers like United Colors of Benetton and Nike.[2]

American Apparel released a line of T-shirts featuring the words "Legalize LA" that were sold in its retail locations. The company donates the proceeds of the shirts to Los Angeles-based immigration rights groups.[4] Legalize LA participated in the May Day protests in 2008.[5] American Apparel employees were given the day off work to participate.

The company also maintains a Legalize LA portion of their website that features news articles relating to immigration reform, the brand and information on the history of the issue.[6]


Legalize LA ran advertisements [1] that pushed for the legalization of the country's illegal alien workers in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.[1][7] The ads appeared in both Spanish and English.[8]

One ad featured a quote from President George W. Bush expressing the need for immigration reform and asked why nothing had been done.[7] It ended with the words "It's time to Legalize LA and the USA."[7] Ads have also implied that the current laws constitute an "apartheid."[2] Another campaign used an excerpt from John F. Kennedy's essay, A Nation of Immigrants.[9]

The company also put up billboards, bus stop ads and posters throughout Los Angeles.[10][11] They also placed two large banners across their downtown factory that read "Legalize LA" and "Immigration Reform Now!"[12][13]


The company's message was later endorsed by California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, according to the Los Angeles Times.[14] He gave a speech denouncing ICE's raids on "nonexploitive" companies underneath the Legalize LA banner at the downtown Los Angeles factory alongside company executives.[14]

One group responded by picketing the company's store in Pasadena, California with signs that said "Legalize LA: Deport Immigrants".[4] A group called Save Our State uploaded a series of protest videos on YouTube renaming "Legalize LA" as "Amnesty for Illegal Aliens."[15] The videos feature the group picketing outside of the company's Hollywood store. American Apparel also received hate mail regarding the campaign which they subsequently posted online.[16] Angered by the company's politics, a group launched a website called that gave away stickers to participants.[17][18]

The campaign also inspired Vice Magazine to release a video documentary called Illegal LA - Immigration, Deportation, and the Right to Work that featured Dov Charney and other immigration figures.[19]

Legalize Gay[edit]

American Apparel window display
American Apparel window display

In November 2008, after the passing of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in California, American Apparel created "Legalize Gay" (a play on Legalize LA) T-shirts to hand out to protesters at rallies. The reaction was so strong, American Apparel began selling the same shirts at stores and online.[20] On July 20, 2009, the window of an American Apparel store was broken by vandalism in response to the campaign. In the next two days, employees at the Silver Spring location as well as the Georgetown store received threatening phone calls, with the perpetrators demanding the T-shirts be taken down.[21] American Apparel asserted the company would not take the T-shirts down and instead, insisted every store in the Washington DC area display a "Legalize Gay" shirt.[22] The company also offered to give the shirts to any gay rights group in DC who wanted one.[23][24][25]

The company has also been criticized for carrying Butt Magazine, a gay culture publication, though American Apparel refuses to discontinue carrying it citing it as an "important gay culture publication" and freedom of expression.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c American Apparel Scoops the Candidates on Immigration Suman Raghunathan. January 18th. 2008
  2. ^ a b c d e Story, Louise (January 18, 2008). "Politics Wrapped in a Clothing Ad". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
  3. ^ American Apparel takes a stand on immigration reform, Good for Business? Archived 2008-09-17 at the Wayback Machine Blogging Stocks.
  4. ^ a b Madrigal, Jake (May 14, 2008). "American Apparel Speaks Out on Immigration Reform". Glendale College El Vaquero. Archived from the original on June 28, 2008. Retrieved June 26, 2008.
  5. ^ Small in Numbers Large in Color Archived 2008-05-05 at the Wayback Machine BlogDowntown. May 1st, 2008
  6. ^ Legalize LA subpage Archived 2011-07-23 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b c American Apparel Ad Archived 2008-07-04 at the Wayback Machine Featured in the New York Times. December 2007
  8. ^ Provacative Ads Archived 2008-07-20 at the Wayback Machine American Apparel Sobre Inmigración. LA Opinion
  9. ^ JFK Quote Flickr. May 19th, 2008
  10. ^ Legalize LA Bus Ad Flickr. May 19th, 2008
  11. ^ American Apparel billboard @ Sunset and Alvarado
  12. ^ Angelenic Photo Tour "Immigration Reform Now!
  13. ^ Angelenic Photo Tour "Legalize LA
  14. ^ a b Tsu, Tiffany (April 30, 2008). "Nuñez denounces ICE raids on businesses". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 27, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
  15. ^ YouTube: Save Our State vs. American Apparel "5 patriots from the organization Save Our State protest American Apparel and its "Legalize LA" campaign (amnesty for illegal aliens)."
  16. ^ Hate Mail of the Day Archived 2008-07-05 at the Wayback Machine 4/1/08
  17. ^ Legalize L.A.- Deport Illegal Immigrants Archived 2008-06-30 at the Wayback Machine "Candidly Conservative"
  18. ^ Boycott American Archived 2014-05-17 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ VBS' 'Illegal LA' Video Doubles As American Apparel Advertorial Archived 2008-06-30 at the Wayback Machine Animal New York
  20. ^ Legalize Gay American Apparel
  21. ^ American Apparel: 'Legalize Gay' T-Shirts Provoked Vandalism, Threats Archived 2011-01-04 at the Wayback Machine ABC News
  22. ^ 'Gay' T-shirts spark vandalism, threats at area American Apparel stores[permanent dead link] The Examiner
  23. ^ "Silver Spring American Apparel Store Vandalized". DCist. Archived from the original on 2009-07-25.
  24. ^ "Vandals attack American Apparel's 'Legalize Gay' display". PinkNews. 22 July 2009.
  25. ^ "American Apparel Store Gay Bashed Over Same-Sex Marriage Support". NBC4 Washington.
  26. ^ Mother criticizes American Apparel store for displaying porno magazine CBC News

External links[edit]