It’s not too surprising that police officers should object to a piece of public art — publicly commissioned — that prominently features the face of a cop-killer.
A group of Palo Alto, Calif. officers are suing over a street mural reading “Black Lives Matter” that the city commissioned in 2020 and that the officers say is an act of harassment and discrimination, reports Palo Alto Online. Each letter of the slogan is decorated with images.
The officers say two of these images are the problem. One includes Assata Shakur, a civil rights activist who was convicted in 1977 of killing a New Jersey state trooper. Another contains the image of a black panther, which the officers say resembles the logo of the New Black Panthers, a political organization founded in 1989 that is described even by the wealthy and stridently leftist Southern Poverty Law Center as “virulently racist and antisemitic.”
The city requested a demurral in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Nov. 23 after talks between attorneys from both sides broke down. The lawsuit was filed in June by five officers with a sixth joining later in the year. A hearing on the city’s objections is scheduled for this March.
The officers charge in the suit that the city engaged in “discrimination and harassment” by allowing “discriminatory iconography” in their workplace and by failing to remove it on request by the officers. They claimed that the mural and the city’s response had “adversely affected their personal health and well-being, including medical expenses, that are anticipated into the future and may force an early retirement.”
Lawyers representing the city took issue with the officers’ argument that the imagery is discriminatory and that the city owes the officers compensation. “The harassment claim fails because no reasonable person would be offended by a mural asserting that Black lives matter,” two of the lawyers wrote in the response, apparently not understanding that the images and not the words were the point of contention.