Five California police officers are suing the city of Palo Alto over a ‘discriminatory’ Black Lives Matter mural that was erected on the street across the street from the Silicon Valley town’s city hall and police station.
The 245-foot-long mural, which spells out Black Lives Matter, features cop killer Assata Shakur, AKA Joanne Chesimard, who was convicted of the 1973 killing of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster.
It also depicts the logo for the New Black Panthers, which is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Multiple officers based at the nearby police station have complained they feel ‘harassed’ by the mural every time they have to pass it.
‘For law enforcement required to enter the building, is there any description other than a hostile work environment?’ the National Police Association said in a statement.
‘Officers, including (the five) Plaintiffs, were forced to physically pass and confront the Mural and its offensive, discriminatory, and harassing iconography every time they entered the Palo Alto Police Department,’ the lawsuit filed on June 4 read.
Five California police officers are suing the city of Palo Alto over a ‘discriminatory’ BLM mural that was on display last summer
The lawsuit identified the five police officers as Eric Figueroa, Michael Foley, Christopher Moore, Robert Parham and Julie Tannock.
The mural in question was initially put on display last June amidst mass nationwide protests over the police-involved killing of George Floyd, and was originally intended on only remaining on display for a year, however it was gone by November.
The inclusion of Shakur, who is also rapper Tupac Shakur’s aunt and godmother, is a controversial one, but she remains an icon for some among the black liberation movement who insist she is innocent and was framed for the murder.
After she was convicted, Shakur subsequently escaped prison before fleeing to Cuba, where Fidel Castro granted her political asylum.
The former member and reputed leader of the Black Liberation Army, a Black Panthers splinter group, has eluded authorities ever since and remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted list to this day.
Joanne Chesimard (left) is New Jersey’s most wanted fugitive after being convicted of killing state trooper Werner Foerster before fleeing to Cuba in 1979
Elusive: Chesimard, seen here in an FBI photo, has eluded American authorities since her prison escape in 1979
Officer Julie Tannock was listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit against Palo Alto City
Officer Robert Parham, another California cop suing the Silicon Valley city
The National Police Association called the move to keep the celebratory mural ‘reprehensible,’ prompting the organization to create a petition last July to have it permanently removed.
‘If it is not possible to imagine putting a 17′ tall mural of nurse killer Richard Speck in front of a hospital or putting a 17′ tall mural of Dan White, who assassinated San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, in front of a mayor’s house, the atrocity of the celebration of a fugitive convicted cop killer in front of Palo Alto’s City Hall is equally reprehensible,’ the petition reads.
Oakland-area artist Cece Carpio, who’s responsible for painting the Shakur part of the BLM mural, said she included the controversial figure due to the ‘status quo’ seeing Shakur as a threat to ‘racial capitalism and white supremacy,’ according to the Palo Alto Daily Post.
The outlet reports that in July 2020, city spokeswoman Meghan Horrigan-Taylor said ‘in no way does the mural take away from the value we have in our police officers who serve our community every day.’
The 245-foot-long, 17-foot-tall mural depicts cop killer Assata Shakur, who was convicted in the 1973 killing of a New Jersey state trooper
The street mural itself was the result of 16 different artists, after the idea was proposed by members of the community and supported unanimously by the City Council and Public Art Commission.
‘This is a step in a good direction,’ said Nia Taylor, the sole Black commissioner on the art commission and the mural project’s co-leader.
‘I think there’s been a lot of African Americans in this community who have often felt underrepresented.’
Each artist was given a letter from the words ‘Black Lives Matter,’ for instance, the letter ‘M’ includes a portrait by muralist Nico Berry of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old who was shot to death while inside her apartment by Louisville Metro Police Department officers.
City Attorney Molly Stump told the Daily Post that the city has not been served with the lawsuit as of Friday.
The Black Panther revolutionary turned convicted cop killer who escaped to Cuba and become the first woman to be placed on the FBI’s ten most wanted list: Assata Shakur
Joanne Chesimard, who goes by the name of Assata Shakur, and is godmother to late rapper Tupac Shakur, is a convicted cop killer who escaped and fled to Cuba in 1979 – where she has remained ever since.
A Black Panther revolutionary, she remains an icon for some among the black liberation movement who insist she is innocent and was framed for the murder.
She is also known as Tupac Shakur’s ‘godmother’ and was close friends with the slain rapper’s mother Afeni and stepfather Mutulu. Mutulu was convicted of helping her escape in 1979 and is currently in prison the fatal robbery of a Brinks money truck.
While driving down the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973, an hour south of New York City, Chesimard and two men—James Coston and Clark Squire—were pulled over by state troopers James Harper and Werner Foerster.
The 26-year-old Chesimard was already known to the FBI for her membership in the Black Panther movement.
She was also wanted for several felonies, including bank robbery counts in New York.
From the passenger seat, Chesimard fired first with a semi-automatic pistol.
Passenger James Coston fired as well and was shot and killed by Officer Harper.
Shakur is listed as one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists, and her escape remains a bone of contention for law enforcement
The shootout continued until Chesimard, having shot and killed Werner Foerster execution-style in the head, fled the scene with Squire.
Both were apprehended by police shortly thereafter.
Chesimard denied having shot anyone and pointed to her radical affiliations as the basis for her being singled out.
Nonetheless, four years after the Jersey Turnpike shootout, Chesimard was convicted of first-degree murder, assault and battery of a police officer, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with intent to kill, illegal possession of a weapon, and armed robbery.
Chesimard was handed life behind bars. She began her sentence at a maximum security prison in West Virginia, but was transferred to a minimum security prison in New Jersey.
Back militant leader Joanna Chesimard leaves Middlesex County court after being sentenced to 26 to 33 years on various assault, weapons and robbery charges in connection with the 1973 murder of a New Jersey State trooper
That’s where, in 1979, Chesimard escaped.
With the help of three people who were visiting her, security guards were held at gunpoint and forced to open prison gates. The group escaped in a prison vehicle and took Chesimard to a safe house in New Jersey, where she managed to stay hidden for years.
Chesimard’s next whereabouts were in Cuba, where she was granted political asylum by Fidel Castro in 1984.
She has lived there ever since, under the name Assata Shakur. Chesimard’s brother was the stepfather of late American rapper Tupac Shakur. She had also reportedly served as the rapper’s godmother.
She was a part of the Black Liberation Army, an underground Black Power revolutionary organization, a group that had declared war on the United States and was responsible for the deaths of 13 police officers.
New Jersey State Police said in a statement on Facebook that Joanne Chesimard ‘is a fugitive who was tried and convicted of the murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster.’