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Activist's portrait on Palo Alto Black Lives Matter mural sparks ire

Original post made on Jul 28, 2020

The Black Lives Matter street mural painted along Hamilton Avenue in front of Palo Alto City Hall on June 30 had barely dried before it became the center of a controversy that has some calling for the removal of one of its images.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, July 28, 2020, 4:57 PM

Comments (33)

23 people like this
Posted by Police Chiefs Say the NPA is a Scam
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 28, 2020 at 6:16 pm

The Indy Star article headline is:

"This Indianapolis charity says it helps police. Police chiefs say it's a scam."

The article goes on to describe how the organization runs enormous mail solicitations that police chiefs said were misleading. Here's a sample:

"Countless Americans have already been robbed, mugged, raped and even murdered as a direct result of Sanctuary policies of allowing known criminals to remain on the streets. Your gift of $15 is needed to reach citizens like you ... so they realize the kind of risks they're facing because their elected officials have allowed their communities to become sanctuaries for violent criminals."

We've all gotten phone calls from organizations claiming they support the police but pocket donations given to them Just ignore the NPA .. scammers should not govern what we do in our town.


114 people like this
Posted by Paly Student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 28, 2020 at 7:54 pm

The fact that there is a portrait of a murderer and fugitive shows a lot about the mural, and in turn, the eponymous organization it honors. Imagine how it must feel for the Palo Alto police to have to go to work every day and have to see the face of a cop killer leering at them. Let the citizens of this sensible city decide for themselves whether or not they want the terrorist Assata's friendly face to be seared into the street.


Posted by Keith
a resident of Crescent Park

on Jul 28, 2020 at 8:02 pm

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125 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 28, 2020 at 8:22 pm

This is sickening and insulting to anyone with common sense.

The decision to include the image of that murderer and terrorist (Assata Shakur/Joanne Byron Chesimard) in a public mural in Palo Alto is an affront to all law-abiding residents of this city. Worse: The individuals who have the audacity to DEFEND the inclusion of such a monster are grasping at straws.

The irony is that the very people who are pulling down statues of historical figures are the same ones defending the inclusion of this killer.

No matter how viable your movement, you lose when you choose a killer as a figure to canonize. I am saddened when any person would try to excuse this FBI Most Wanted terrorist's criminal activity, violence and murder because of "racism."


15 people like this
Posted by That's It?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2020 at 11:18 pm

[Portion removed due to inaccurate factual assertion.]

On that same street is name after name after name of men and women, all murdered by law enforcement personnel, representing the thousands of others who have also been. They are waiting to hear your outrage for them.


68 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 29, 2020 at 8:28 am

@ That's It: You might not be quite as intuitive as you boast when it comes to outrage. This isn't a case of selective outrage. I am just as outraged at the monster depicted in that mural as I am outraged about the bad cop who had a knee on George Floyd's neck.


80 people like this
Posted by Jayson
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2020 at 8:44 am

Disappointed in our city officials for allowing the picture of a cop killer to stay. Speaks volumes of what they think about our police department.


69 people like this
Posted by Interesting
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 29, 2020 at 9:22 am

It is interesting that BLM which at its heart is a non-violent protest, though taken over by some violent people, is supporting a mural that includes a person who murdered another human being? I personally think removing Assata Shakur is the right thing to do.


5 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2020 at 9:28 am

I just drove by this the other night. I get it ... Black Lives do Matter, of course.

Bad spot for a mural though.

Who decides these things because, I hate to say it but, a lot of the political arguments on these issues are often expressed in the media in some kind of "off" or "problematic" way that leaves them open for criticism that
derails the issue.

They always tweak people's reasonableness, or they provoke an us/them racist or sexual or some other divide, or they can be purposefully misconstrued leading whatever issue to be reduced to noisy bickering. The one thing these seem to stay away from is provoking a class divide ... much more than I think just random chance would indicate?

If I could make a suggestion to think more about messaging. That is the one important technology that the Right seems to be much more able to afford, and understands the importance of - and it sadly for the most part it works even when it is very wrong.


84 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 29, 2020 at 9:52 am

They say that political parties start as movements, then become businesses, and inevitably end up as scams.

This one seems to have jumped straight to the scam stage. If we're not allowed to also say that "Blue lives matter, too," despite all the innocent police officers murdered in the line of duty [portion removed], then there's really no conversation worth having.


15 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2020 at 11:58 am

The artist should be allowed to submit a revised version approved by the city. Otherwise, another artist should be allowed to paint over it. Palo Alto police are an important part of our community. I appreciate them. They shouldn’t feel uncomfortable coming to work and I don’t want to look at that for a year.


1 person likes this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 29, 2020 at 12:10 pm

I met David Choe and Mark Zuckerberg on Emerson the night Choe painted the mural for which he was paid Facebook stock options ultimately worth an estimated $200 million. Palentir , according to a source and employee at the time has a dabs in Mylo mural, probably worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Two seventy eight Hamilton Right next to the mural we are discussing here, Had a somewhat controversial Greg Brown Nuro depicting Roxy Rapp sabotaging the elevator allegedly according to Greg as a way to spook an unwanted tenant who was therapist. Meanwhile we paid
$700 to CeCe Carpio — people you get what you pays for. Arguably its not a mural it’s graffiti. Or road rash.
I had never heard of Shakur before I thought it was Angela Davis of course I am Angela Davis T-shirt from the Deyoung that I thought was Jimi Hendrix.
I believe there is a public record the shows I wrote to city Council recently and suggested a second mural on Forest between the library and the public safety building: BOOYA.
I am more upset that staff and then counsel destroyed Peter Wegner’s art suite for the new public safety building .


19 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 29, 2020 at 12:38 pm

WOW - I am watching congressional meetings right now and Mark Zuckerberg, Google, Apple, and Amazon are on the hot seat for their contributions to foreign entities and allowing questionable content on their platforms.

If they are paying for public "art" that we are subjected to of a questionable nature then shame on the city for allowing this. If anything the city should be paid for allowing it's public streets to be used to encourage any artist's political leanings. Why are we expected to pay for the security on street art? It is costing us time and money, along with constant arguing about what it all means.

Part of our PACC reps feel the need to "participate" in what ever the current political flap is. They keep pushing this city to end up in newspapers touting it's "progressive" posture. And our local media loves controversy up until it gets too messy.

In the future the "ART Commission" needs to keep public areas clear and reduce their "scope of authority" to art hung in buildings that gets moved around for display.

As to the Shakur portion of the street art cover it up with some flowers art. If we are the customer then we are calling out what the art is suppose to look like. Hey - WE are the customer - the customer calls the shots. Or gets rid of the customer reps that do not listen.

In the future we all need to understand who is financing activities in our city and who approves of these actions of a political nature.


Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 29, 2020 at 12:46 pm

I disagree with cc Carpio but I believe in public art if the city wants me personally to subsidize and will let me earmark $700 for the next Mural would do so.


8 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2020 at 1:10 pm

Reality Check ... BLM is not a scam, and that that comment is just UN-reality,
in the form of oblique racism.


7 people like this
Posted by Old Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 29, 2020 at 1:11 pm

I haven't yet seen the sidewalk mural. But I think in the context of 2020 -- George Floyd's murder; distinctly fascist attacks and kidnappings by federal agents in tactical gear in Portland, Oregon; and a president who does not contest the assassination of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by paid Russian proxies -- I believe in this context a contentious mural depicting a fugitive of federal agents is completely justified. But even if this context did not exist -- even then -- I would say the artwork is still justified because of longstanding criminal biases against African-Americans at all levels of our system of justice. This may sound like some kind of left-wing rant. It's not. I regularly vote for Republican candidates -- in California. This is a frank acknowledgment of the history of our country. If an artist is bringing this topic to the fore with contentious figures, then so be it. At least someone is sticking his neck out for the truth.


3 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2020 at 1:15 pm

In general as we see with statues all over the country these days ... political art
should not be placed PERMANENTLY, or be expected to remain PERMANENTLY
in people's faces in the public space.

I am fine with demonstrations and debates, murals or whatever, but things
get stale and provoke people needlessly and not everyone wants or needs to
see it. I think BLM, whether it is as good slogan or not is a valid concern and
worthy of demonstration, protests arts or murals until something substantial is
done to fix a measurable injustice in our police forces.


45 people like this
Posted by Mama
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2020 at 1:38 pm

Hamilton is a public street and should not be blocked by barriers, particularly with University Avenue closed. What happened to the car? Was it finally impounded as it should have been on day one? Black lives do matter but so should the lives of the majority of police officers who do not commit atrocities.
Is the public art commission allowed to approve anything they want and then use it to block public streets? To me this is a no-brainer. Open the street!


41 people like this
Posted by john
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 29, 2020 at 2:53 pm

Trooper Werner Foerster, the husband and father murdered by Shakur, escaped communism from his birth country of East Germany. It's tragic that he met his demise at the hands of a proponent of that evil, failed ideology.


25 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 29, 2020 at 3:26 pm

SO there you go - there is always more to a story than each side is going to provide to support their positions. When you put it out there more positions start appearing than the intended message.

Why have learned more about Shakur than I care to know. The issue is why is she on our Street blocking traffic and irritating a lot of the residents of this city?

Why is there a Art Commission that approves questionable art?

Are we under the thumb of one person's political position? Now that is where the issue is for me - we do not pay taxes here so one person can run around to arrange the politics of this city. That requires major pushback.


18 people like this
Posted by Fairmeadow
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 30, 2020 at 2:57 am

[Post removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 30, 2020 at 4:47 am

[Post removed.]


34 people like this
Posted by merry
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 30, 2020 at 7:03 am

Time to let this grafetti go.
When it was approved, how was it supposed to end? Thought is was temporary. Open the street. Enough already.


26 people like this
Posted by Lauren
a resident of Hoover School
on Jul 30, 2020 at 10:19 am

It has to go. Plain and simple . The artist needs to do his or her's research first. Plenty of other deserving faces. How this wasn't reviewed by someone from the city before getting the final approval.


3 people like this
Posted by Bus Service
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2020 at 2:17 pm

Why do those who need the bus need to walk to Homer Ave.?


2 people like this
Posted by Peers Parent
a resident of Southgate
on Jul 30, 2020 at 2:32 pm

Wow. There's a lot of anger here. I am grateful for it. It seems many in our city want to dictate HOW people demand equal treatment under the law. Since the beginning of this nation (and before) Black Americans have been treated as less than. In this very city, they have and continue to be. There have been peaceful marches, there have been boycotts, there have been knees taken, yet still there is discrimination. Yet this city still wants to focus on HOW. How about we just admit our housing, policing, educational policies are racist at their core and we grow and change into a more equitable system. Let's focus on the problem rather than the nature of the attempts to fix them.
As a reminder, it is universally believed that Shakur never shot anyone and there is consensus that she never received a fair trial. Let's get outraged about that.
I appreciate the difficult job of police officers and I'm grateful for their work. That does not absolve me of the responsibility of calling out abuse of our Black and brown residents. We appreciate the work and we call out the work that needs to happen.


26 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 30, 2020 at 3:41 pm

Peers Parent... Your comments encouraging taking actions to create a more equitable system are laudable. However, the remarks about Shakur deserve a response. You claim "it is universally believed that Shakur never shot anyone and there is consensus that she never received a fair trial." Those are far overreaching claims. There was lots of debate about whether she was the one amongst her group in the car that actually pulled the trigger causing the trooper's death, but even if she wasn't, laws outstanding at the time would have deemed her a conspirator and complicit in the crime, therefore subject to conviction for the same offenses. People are rightly outraged at the utilization of her image in soliciting support for the BLM movement - the only thing missing from that portion of the mural is the favorite saying of her terrorist Black Liberation Army, "kill all the pigs".


26 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 30, 2020 at 7:03 pm

@ Peers Parents:

You wrote: "As a reminder, it is universally believed that Shakur never shot anyone and there is consensus that she never received a fair trial. Let's get outraged about that."

This is simply not true.


2 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 30, 2020 at 8:06 pm

This whole mural is just an excuse for liberal people in Palo Alto to pretend they are making a difference. Want to make an actual difference... hire more people of color in top positions, tell the Palo Alto police to stop harassing anyone who come over from East Palo Alto and allow for more affordable housing... all things that these same “liberal” people in Palo Alto will never do.

It seems Palo Alto has fully accepted really wealthy Chinese but still not people of color who are born and raised in American.


16 people like this
Posted by Wut?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2020 at 10:13 pm

@John, who stated: “Palo Alto has fully accepted really wealthy Chinese but still not people of color who are born and raised in American.”

Chinese are very law abiding people. When do you see mug shots of Chinese people who have harmed strangers they do not know?


11 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 31, 2020 at 11:38 am

Article today concerning interviews with mayors on this topic. RWC removed the BLM from their street. Too much controversy and conflicting opinions in their diverse community. However interview with Mr. Fine was the "I" word. One person - "I". He does not recognize that we live in a diverse community and are not appreciative of people endorsing strange avenues of expression at the cities expense.


Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 31, 2020 at 4:25 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows.... You mentioned an article today on the topic of the BLM mural. Could you please direct us to that article? Thanks


3 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 3, 2020 at 8:22 am

Hi - article is in the Dailey News, 31 July - "Removal of Mural Art Stirs Debate".
Mayors in cities where murals have been a "hot button issue" address the value of free speech and public expression. Note that the Mayor of Redwood City has got calls from NY on her position on the removal of all art on the street. Someone wanted to put a different message - MAGA 2020 - so keep stirring the pot. Note that Aldo Toledo wrote this - he is the apparent new star of controversial issues.


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