Palo Alto

Fugitive the Source of Debate Over Black Lives Matter Mural in Palo Alto

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The FBI calls her a terrorist but some Black Lives Matter supporters in the Bay Area call her a fighter for civil rights. 

Fugitive Assata Shakur is the source of a lot of debate in Palo Alto, after an artist painted the convicted murderer as part of a city-sanctioned mural. 

A national police group says that’s an insult to police everywhere and are calling on the city to scrub Assata off the mural. 

The U.S. government has branded Shakur, a member of the Black Power movement who was convicted in the murder of a New Jersey state Trooper, as part of the nation’s Most Wanted Terorist List. 

Shakur escaped from prison in 1979 and is believed to be hiding out in Cuba ever since. 

“Assata is one of many minority members who have been slandered by this country,” said JT Faraji from Hood Squad from East Palo Alto. 

On the same day, that happens to be  Shakur’s 73-year-old birthday, Black Lives Matter supporters gathered outside of Palo Alto City Hall to defend her as a civil rights leader and to chip away at the label “cop-killer.”  

“We have to defend Assata, a righteous woman, a woman who fought for her people,” Faraji said.

The National Police Association doesn’t see Assata that way. Retired police sergeant Betsy Smith says Shakur should not be glorified.  

“Police officers have to walk by that every day and see the face of a convicted cop killer, that’s a hostile work environment,” said Betsy Smith from the National Police Association.

Palo Alto’s Mayor Adrian Fine says it’s a contentious issue. 

“I got hundreds of calls over the past week calling it idiotic and cruel,” he said. 

Fine says he took the mural artist’s advice and read up Shakur’s biography to decide for himself how Shakur should truly be remembered. 

When asked if the mural should stay, the mayor said, “as far as I’m concerned, absolutely.”

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