Are CA police right to sue Silicon Valley over BLM mural?


Fact Box

  • On Thursday, July 8, 2021, five police officers sued Silicon Valley for allowing the creation of a Black Lives Matter mural last June. The images in the mural depict anti-police sentiments, one of Joanne Chesimard, who was convicted in 1973 for killing a state trooper. The logo of the New Black Panthers, which is identified as a hate group, is also included in the mural
  • The officers sued on grounds that the mural violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act, while the city allowed the art, and “insisted that it remain and persist.” It was meant to be left for a year, but was removed in November. 
  • Joanne Chesimard, or Assata Shakur, has remained a controversial figure for the killing, but is also seen as an icon for the black liberation movement as innocent and framed for the murder. 
  • Black Lives Matter (BLM) was established in 2013 in response to the Trayvon Martin case (2012). It operates under the premise of “eradicating white supremacy, building power against violence, and creating space for Black innovation.”

Louis (Yes)

Five officers are engaged in a controversial lawsuit against Silicon Valley over the problematic portrayal of anti-police symbolism. Not only is the lawsuit appropriate, but it is critical to addressing the prevalence of black nationalism and anti-police ideas infecting society and societal discourse on the nature of true discrimination and disparities in America. 

Contrary to common belief, these murals did not echo objectively positive sentiments. According to the legal documents, one of the murals referenced Joanne Chesimard, an infamous cop-killer from the 1970s. The promotion of a convicted cop-killer directly near a police station is both threatening and detrimental to the relationship between the police and civilians.

Another specification noted in the lawsuit was that there were logos of the New Black Panthers within the murals, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has categorized as a hate group. In California, drawing nazi symbols constitutes extensive hate-crime investigations. Therefore this lawsuit upholds that responsible and thoughtful standard of law.

The iconography of hate groups and cop-killers is prohibited by the Fair Employment and Housing Act which 'is responsible for enforcing state laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee because of a protected characteristic.' For several months, these murals were positioned in a taunting fashion in close proximity to the police station; this qualifies as workplace harassment, thus giving immense credibility to the lawsuit. 

Fundamentally, this lawsuit poses serious questions concerning the morality of Silicon Valley and the extent to which hate crimes are identified and denounced in a public and legal setting. The lawsuit not only holds merit, but it might be the saving grace for a liberal state like California. 

Kevin (No)

California police say the Black Lives Matter mural contained 'images that constituted harassment and discrimination against law enforcement' and that it 'violated the state Fair Employment and Housing Act.' However, the Act in question provides no protections that would apply to police officers, nor would the legal concept of discrimination apply to police as an occupation. The term 'discrimination' also implies that those being discriminated against are vulnerable somehow, which doesn't seem to be true in this situation. It is also worth noting that the mural is no longer on display. Although it was reportedly 'intended to remain in place for a year,' it was gone by November 2020, having been painted in June.

As for the harassment complaint, from the point of view of those who made the mural, the police are the party who is guilty of harassment, and their mural was an expression of free speech. The mural included images which the police found 'reprehensible,' but importantly did not actually call for any violence or other acts against the police. One image, in particular, was that of activist Assata Shakur, accused of murdering a police officer. It should be considered that the facts of that case are controversial, and while the image could certainly be called confrontational, it should perhaps be taken more as a matter of seeking awareness than a threat. The city was supporting free speech by allowing the mural, and since there seems to be no basis for the claim of discrimination, it likewise appears there is no basis for the lawsuit itself.

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