California judge dismisses officers’ lawsuit over BLM mural with Assata Shakur 

A Santa Clara judge ruled that the six cops hadn't offered enough evidence that the mural amounted to discrimination.

Six Palo Alto, California, police officers filed a civil complaint against the city for being “forced” to walk past a street mural that featured victims of police violence and 1970s Black Liberation Army member Assata Shakur. A Santa Clara judge recently dismissed their lawsuit.

Per The Mercury News, officers Eric Figueroa, Michael Foley, Christopher Moore, Robert Parham, Julie Tannock and David Ferreira made claims that they were “forced to physically pass and confront the mural every time they entered the Palo Alto Police department.” They described the artwork as “offensive, discriminatory and harassing iconography” that fostered a “hostile” and “retaliatory” work environment.

The “e” in the word “matter” in a Palo Alto mural featured an image of Assata Shakur, the first woman to ever be placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist’s list. (Photo: Benny Villarreal Photography)

The mural was commissioned by Palo Alto in June 2020 in the wake of passionate protests following the brutal police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It was installed across the street from its City Hall, a collaboration by 16 teams of artists, with each artist’s team painting a letter in the capitalized assertion, “Black lives matter.” 

The “e” in the word “matter” featured an image of Shakur, who, in 1973, became the first woman to ever be placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist’s list. She later escaped from prison in a daring breakout and fled to Cuba, where she was granted political asylum. Her mural depiction also included a quote of hers: “We must love each other to support each other.”

Despite Shakur being a polarizing figure, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Socrates Peter Manoukian ruled that the officers had not offered enough evidence that the mural amounted to discrimination. Further, he noted that police officers “are not a protected class,” and said there was no evidence to show the installation of the mural was retaliatory. 

“There is nothing to suggest that the mural and its iconography was created in favor of one group over another,” Manoukian wrote, per the report. “Similarly, Plaintiffs do not provide any factual allegations which would suggest defendant City’s refusal to address Plaintiffs’ complaints about the Mural are based on Plaintiffs’ race, ethnicity, or some other protected classification.”

Per Palo Alto Online, the mural was removed in November 2020. The city voted to install a permanent art installation in King Plaza that will recognize its priorities of racial justice and equity.

Vice Mayor Tom DuBois said in an Aug. 25, 2020, meeting that while the mural art project was “rushed” and temporary, “the purpose was to show our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and to pull our community together — the residents, the police force and really everybody. It was unfortunate that art can also be divisive, and parts of it were divisive.”

TheGrio is now on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and Android TV. Also, please download theGrio mobile apps today!