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A vibrant mural that spells out “Black Lives Matter,” painted in front of Palo Alto City Hall in June, is causing controversy.

The “e” in “Matter” is in question because a contentious figure is painted on it in the form of Assata Shakur. The National Police Association is demanding it be removed because of Shakur’s involvement in the 1973 killing of a New Jersey state trooper. Shakur remains on the FBI’s most wanted list for the killing.

Cece Carpio, a local artist, painted the mural.

The police association made the demand because Justice Vanguard, a local social justice organization, held a press conference last week in Palo Alto to defend the mural.

Assata Shakur is seen in an undated FBI photo. (Wikipedia photo)

“We have to defend Assata, a righteous woman. A woman who fought for her people and fought to make America better,” JT Faraji from Hood Squad said. “We have to defend her against a racist police association and it’s a shame.”

Shakur is a hero for some and a villain for others. She was a member of the Black Panther Party before she escaped from prison and sought political refuge in Cuba in 1979.

“As a resident of Oakland, with a rich history of this movement, birthing the Black Panther party, it is important to educate young people like my niece because its legacies give hope for us today,” Carpio said in a statement read at the news conference.

Carpio’s statement said Shakur was unfairly targeted by police and would have never received a fair trial to prove her innocence.

“In 2020, Assata is still in political asylum in Cuba. Police are still killing and targeting Black people and communities and people are rising up and continuing to resist to build a new world,” Carpio said. “As police organize to target, delegitimize and destroy our movement, I will continue to do my part to defend, amplify that and celebrate us.”

The mural was commissioned and approved by the Palo Alto Public Art Program.