Five Palo Alto officers are suing the city as well as their police department over a Black Lives Matter mural they claim carried some “offensive, discriminatory, and harassing iconography.”
The mural, which was commissioned by the city and was about 245-foot long, was painted on the street in front of the Palo Alto City Hall in June last year following the death of George Floyd. It was, however, removed in November though the initial plan was to have it displayed on the street for a year, Palo Alto Daily Post reported.
The elements of the mural the plaintiffs registered their displeasure with include the painting of wanted fugitive Assata Shakur as well as the logo of the New Black Panthers – an organization described as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Assata, born Joanne Deborah Chesimard, has been living in Cuba for over 30 years, after escaping from prison where she was serving a life sentence for allegedly killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973. The step-aunt and godmother of the late Tupac Shakur has since been the first woman to ever make the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list.
“Law enforcement officers, including 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 stated, according to The Associated Press.
The lawsuit also claims that the officers highlighted to officials that the mural was in contravention of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. However, the plaintiffs said the city “ratified the conduct and insisted that it remain and persist.”
In a statement to KGO-TV, the law firm representing the plaintiffs clarified their clients did not have any issue with the entire mural or the Black Lives Matter Movement, adding that their bone of contention was specifically the two aforementioned elements, ABC7 reported.
“It is important to note that the lawsuit, nor the plaintiffs, have any issue whatsoever with the mural at issue in general nor the BLM movement,” the statement said. “The only issue was with two icons/pictures within one of the letters – the image of Assata Shakur and the image of the New Black Panthers – that the Police Officers association simply asked be removed from the mural on two occasions. They were told ‘no.’”
The mural in question had been at the center of controversy prior to its removal. In July last year, The National Police Association released a statement demanding the city of Palo Alto to remove the mural of the “convicted cop killer.”
“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 association said.
“For law enforcement required to enter the building is there any description other than a hostile work environment?”