Black Lives Matter mural prompts 5 police officers to sue city

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 Dave Price.

By the Daily Post staff

Five Palo Alto police officers are suing the city for permitting a Black Lives Matter mural, with a strong anti-police theme, to remain last summer on Hamilton Avenue in front of City Hall.

The five officers say the mural constitutes discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

In the heat of national protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, City Council authorized the painting of the mural at a June 15, 2020 meeting. In the next two weeks, a group of activists painted the 245-foot long mural in the street.

The mural featured several images in each letter of the phrase Black Lives Matter.

The suit points out that in the letter “E” is an image of Joanne Chesimard, better known as Assata Shakur, who was convicted in 1977 for the murder of New Jersey State Trooper Wermer Foerster, a white police officer. 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.

The suit also points out that the mural included the logo of the New Black Panthers, which is identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group that has encouraged violence against whites, Jews and police officers.

“Law enforcement officers, including the 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,” said the lawsuit.

The police department is located at 275 Forest Ave., on the opposite side of City Hall from the mural. The two vehicle entrances to the department are in the 600 block of Ramona and Bryant streets, a half block from where the mural had been located.

“Defendants created and allowed to exist the aforementioned discriminatory and harassing work environment,” said the suit. “Not only did the defendants allow the harassing and discriminatory iconography to exist in the workplace, but they also sanctioned, approved, encouraged, and paid for it.”

The suit points out that police officers told “people above them in the chain of command” that the mural violated the state Fair Employment and Housing Act. But the city “ratified the conduct and insisted that it remain and persist.”

The suit claims the mural was a form of discrimination against the five officers based on their race, national origin, and/or color.

In July 2020, the National Police Association demanded the mural’s removal.

The association said it was an “atrocity” to celebrate a fugitive convicted cop killer in front of City Hall.

“For law enforcement required to enter the building, is there any description other than a hostile work environment?” the association said in a statement.

Oakland artist Cece Carpio, who painted the Shakur portion of the mural, said last year it was essential to include the fugitive in the mural because the nation’s “status quo” sees her as a threat to “racial capitalism and white supremacy.”

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.”

She also said in June 2020 that the mural could remain on the street for “up to a year.” However, it was gone by November.

The suit, filed June 4 in Santa Clara County Superior Court, lists as plaintiffs police officers Eric Figueroa, Michael Foley, Christopher Moore, Robert Parham and Julie Tannock.

Their suit was filed by Matthew McNicholas, Douglas Winter and Emily Pincin of McNicholas & McNicholas in Los Angeles, a law firm that has represented police and firefighters in other suits.

City Attorney Molly Stump said that the city has not been served with the suit.

Here’s a copy of the lawsuit.



  1. I know the Progressives will dismiss this lawsuit as being frivolous but what if the roles were reversed and a bunch of White Pride types painted a banner like this in front of the home of a black person?

  2. City Council was so anxious to virtue signal that they ran roughshod over the rights of their own employees. The council members are a bunch of lousy employers. I wish they could be held personally liable in this suit.

  3. Do we really need to be so litigation happy in our society? Everyone is out to prove a point that if you cater to a certain demographic, the other is so troubled that they must sue. What ever happened to talking things out and discussing feelings. Are we so bankrupt as a society that everything must be litigated??

  4. This lawsuit ought to tell Council that it’s time to stop virtue signaling and focus on the job of running the city.

  5. I hope the police prevail. The mural is graffiti. It’s an insult to the good folks in our police department. The city should be ashamed to have allowed this and immediately clean it up. Painting your politics on the street is not acceptable.

  6. I hope the officers win. Each day it seems like the “progressive” politics in this country stray further from common sense. Also, my tax dollars paid for this while at the same time we were cutting services due to budget issues? Embarrassing.

  7. I’m proudly liberal and I feel the murals inclusion of the Black Panthers and Assata Shakur was inappropriate and did not serve BLM well. It would have been far better if the artist only included portraits of the MANY MANY people of color who have unjustly been killed by police. If that had been done, the mural would likely still be there and the officers lawsuit would be deemed frivolous.

  8. Big cry babies and it is a disgrace these whiners for officers have the nerves to even say constitutes discrimination, harassment and retaliation. How is the world is any these things? Just nonsense coming crybabies of officers.

  9. I am not sympathetic with this litigation. The mural has been gone for over half a year. As for images of Assata Shakur and the Black Panther logo, who recognizes those anyway. The Palo Alto police broke into my house and damaged my front door so it would not close. The dent is still there. I paid to have the door repaired. The issue had something to do with somebody on meth attacking my son’s wife. The police should stop whining, take responsibility for their vandalism, and stop supporting violent meth users.

  10. This issue should be moot. The mural is no longer there. Art on the street surface really is perishable. Further, these officers want to deny freedom expression which government entities are specifically prohibited from doing. Further, the police are NOT a protected group in so far as discrimination. As I see it the artist had his say and the police had their say. In democracy each has right to have their say but not prohibit the other. If it is moot, will the plaintiff be required to reimburse the defendant (taxpayers) for legal costs?

  11. Why would anyone in their right mind want to paint over our streets in the first place? I start there. Second, blm is not a credible organization and was bought out and used against us all. I support anyone that has been harmed by blm, for it has hurt my life tremendously. Equal rights for all.

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