National police organization objects to painting of cop-killer on Black Lives Matter mural

In the letter “E” of the street mural in front of Palo Alto City Hall, Oakland artist Cece Carpio painted the likeness of Assata Shakur, a convicted cop killer from New Jersey who escaped from prison and is believed to be in Cuba. Post photo.

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

A national police supporters organization says a portion of the Black Lives Matter painted on the street in front of Palo Alto City Hall is offensive to police officers because it includes a picture of a convicted cop killer.

In the letter “E” of the street mural, Oakland artist Cece Carpio painted the likeness of Assata Shakur, also known as Joanne Chesimard, who was pulled over by New Jersey State Troopers on May 2, 1973.

The three occupants of the vehicle opened fire on the troopers. By the time the gunfire had ended, Trooper Werner Foerster and one of the car’s passengers had died and the other trooper was injured. Shakur was arrested and convicted of Foerster’s murder. She later escaped from prison and fled to Cuba, where she is believed to still be living.

Shakur’s likeness on the Palo Alto mural caught the attention of the National Police Association, which is demanding its removal.

“If it is not possible to imagine putting a 17-foot tall mural of nurse killer Richard Speck in front of a hospital or putting a 17-foot 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. For law enforcement required to enter the building, is there any description other than a hostile work environment?” the association said in a statement.

On Wednesday, protesters began parking their cars on the mural to keep it from being defaced. They also told the Post on Wednesday that they were protecting it from the wear and tear of regular traffic.

In a Facebook post about the controversy, artist Carpio wrote about defending her art “once again.”

“This is really about defending the movements and communities I am accountable to and work to uplift,” Carpio wrote. “As a woman of color, an artist, a muralist and as a cultural worker, I reclaim public spaces and create larger-than-life images to tell stories of our collective experience.”

“In thinking about painting letters for this particular Black Lives Matter mural, (that is) supported by the city of Palo Alto, I felt it was important to represent the words and wisdom of Assata, who has been a political refugee since 1979,” Carpio wrote.

“Assata was a target of policing and COINTELPRO (an FBI project created to get rid of political dissidents) and is still a target of policing and the U.S. government. They see her involvement with the Black liberation movement as a threat to the status quo. Just as they see the movement to defend Black lives as a threat to racial capitalism and white supremacy,” artist Carpio wrote on Facebook.

City won’t remove the artwork

City spokeswoman Meghan Horrigan-Taylor said that the mural is anticipated to remain for “up to” a year, and is part of “a larger city dialogue taking place on race and equity and connects to the city’s thoughtful conversations on the role of policing.”

Horrigan-Taylor said there are no plans to expedite the removal of the mural and “in no way does the mural take away from the value we have in our police officers who serve our community every day.”

City Council on June 15 decided that it ought to have Black Lives Matter painted in the area near City Hall. The council at that meeting was discussing how to go forward with police reforms and learning more about the workings of the department. Council that night decided to appoint a series of ad hoc committees of council members that will look into the police department and then report back to the rest of the council.

Council also asked the city’s Human Relations Commission to write a report on the history of African-American and Latino residents in Palo Alto.

Local incidents come to the surface

The discussion about policing in Palo Alto was brought to the surface after the swell of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and a recent spate of incidents involving three Palo Alto police officers.

Attendees of the June 15 council meeting called for the firing of Capt. Zach Perron and Agent Tom DeStefano. Some also said that retired Sgt. Wayne Benitez ought to lose his pension.

The city paid $250,000 to settle claims against DeStefano for breaking a man’s arm during a traffic stop in 2013. A Buena Vista Mobile Home Park resident, Julio Arevalo, has named DeStefano in a $10 million lawsuit alleging police brutality during an arrest last year at Happy Donuts.

The Daily Post reported last year that Perron used the n-word in 2014 to make a joke to a black officer who has since left the department. An investigation into the incident was kept from the public and afterward Perron was promoted from lieutenant to captain.

Benitez allegedly slammed Buena Vista resident Gustavo Alvarez’s head into a car and mocked him for being gay. The city paid $572,500 to settle the suit. Benitez retired during the litigation.
District Attorney Jeff Rosen is looking into whether to prosecute Benitez. NBC Bay Area reported last month that the FBI is investigating the case.

9 Comments

  1. Every Palo Alto Police Officer should be required to begin their shift by walking over to the mural and looking at it. They should quietly think about its meaning and their mission as “peace officers.” While I respect police, they’ve injured and killed to many innocent people of color. We need change, and this might be one small way of bringing change.

    • No they should not do that. They should spit on it instead or, better, paint over it. I’m not about to throw the police under the bus over a few bad incidents and actors in the past 10 years, when 99.9% of police encounters with civilians are cordial and of no consequence.

      Police kill very few unarmed victims who are, in many cases, still very dangerous and often actively resisting arrest. Also, police kill twice as many white people as “people of color,” and while the white population is much greater, black people commit a majority of the violent crimes in this country. As for inter-racial crimes, blacks are 5-10 times more likely to commit violent crime on whites as whites commit on blacks. Look up the FBI Department of Justice crime statistics.

    • More unarmed whites are killed each year by police than blacks. More cops are killed each year than a combination of unarmed blacks or whites killed by cops. If we are going to paint anything on our streets it should be, “Blue Lives Matter”.

  2. It’s nothing but virtue signaling. This is laughable that the city manager paid so little attention to this that an artist was able to create a tribute to a cop killer. Now the city has to defend this. What if somebody discovers a Nazi symbol in this mural? Will they defend that too?

  3. Two wrongs don’t make it right.

    Just like gang wars, gang “A” kills a gang “B” member. Gang “B” kills a gang “A” member.

    Never ends…

    You are just poking the Tiger!

  4. This is interesting. I didn’t know about Assata Shakur, but if the goal of the artist was to raise awareness, then mission accomplished. I just read this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assata_Shakur

    It’s a challenging image to include to be sure, but it is not glorifying the actual killing. Shakur’s story is much bigger and should be one we know. I’m not sure silencing it is a better move.

    The City Council has a lot more guts and conviction than I expected. They obviously allowed this to be painted in the first place and are sticking to it. All of a sudden, their credibility about being serious about change goes way up.

  5. I do not know Capt. Zach Perron, never met him, but I do know that his incident six years ago has already been adjudicated within the appropriate city departments that handle these matters and the council was aware of it back then.

    The comment/joke was offensive and too casual, but can we move on? I’m sure Capt Perron has learned a valuable lesson and doubtless will never happen again.

  6. BLM is radical Marxist organization that supports destruction of the nuclear family. Since when did Marxist views become mainstream in our system of limited government and individual rights?

  7. Charging BLM with being Marxist is the sign of someone who parrots whatever assault line that the right wing lie machine feeds them. If you want to assess it, read the Quora discussion: https://www.quora.com/Is-Black-Lives-Matter-a-Marxist-influenced-group

    The article itself is interesting. I didn’t know about Assata Shakur, but if the goal of the artist was to raise awareness, then mission accomplished. I just read this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assata_Shakur

    It’s a challenging image to include to be sure, but it is not glorifying the actual killing. Shakur’s story is much bigger and should be one we know. She was cleared of all charges she was being hunted for and it’s now widely believed she was innocent of all of them. I’m not sure silencing it is a good move. I think it’s a great opportunity for the Palo Alto Police to say that they don’t make knee-jerk condemnations against anyone who’s ever violently resisted arrest.

    The City Council has a lot more guts and conviction than I expected. They obviously allowed this to be painted in the first place and are sticking to it. All of a sudden, their credibility about being serious about change goes way up.

Comments are closed.