Palo Alto Cops Sue Art For Being Mean

Five cops have filed a lawsuit saying they're being harassed ... by a Black Lives Matter mural that no longer exists.

Yes, really.

Last week, Eric Figueroa, Michael Foley, Chris Moore, Robert Parham, and Jule Tannock — who deserve to be named and shamed, and we're happy to help! — sued the city of Palo Alto and the Palo Alto Police Department in Santa Clara County Superior Court for discriminating against them by having a Black Lives Matter mural.

It almost goes without saying that this lawsuit is a disgusting, fucked up, racist piece of garbage. But sometimes you have to just choose to find things like this hilarious instead of horrifying. Especially after living through the last five years.

So, basically, I'm pretty sure I have a new favorite lawsuit. Let's read this thing!

Before we get into this, we should probably point out that the very offensive mural in question NO LONGER EXISTS. It was intended to be temporary and decommissioned last November "due to the anticipated shift in weather and concerns over public safety and traffic impacts." But the mural is still hurting the officers' fee-fees because, I guess, it wasn't explicitly removed because they said so.

According to the Palo Alto Five, their "careers have been materially and adversely affected, and irreparably harmed and damaged by the conduct" of the city and the Palo Alto PD, who "created and allowed to exist a harassing, discriminatory, and retaliatory work environment[.]"

And how, exactly, did the city of Palo Alto do that?

Beginning in or around June 2020, Defendants City and PAPD encouraged, endorsed, and otherwise permitted local efforts to engage in and showcase public art installations, including murals, throughout the City. Specifically, City officials permitted and encouraged artists to create sixteen individual murals on City property that, side-by-side, spelled out "Black Lives Matter[.]"


And they were hurt, so hurt, by the very mean mural!

"Plaintiffs were required to and did employ, and will in the future employ, physicians and health care providers to examine, treat, and care for Plaintiffs, and did, and will in the future, incur medical and incidental expenses."
I wonder how, exactly, doctors treat patients who show up to the hospital with the injury of ... having seen a mural they didn't like. "Show me on the mural where it hurt you."

But don't worry, we have an answer! It was apparently the letter "E" that injured Officers. Figueroa, Foley, Moore, Parham, and Tannock so grievously.

The Mural featured several images inside each letter of the phrase, including the portrait of and a quote by Joanne Chesimard Within the letter "E" of the word "Matter."

The iconography at issue in the letter "E" of the mural is an image of Joanne Chesimard, better known as Assata Shakur, who was convicted in 1977 for the murder of New Jersey State Trooper Wermer Foerster, a White police officer. In 1979, While serving a life sentence for the murder, Shakur escaped from prison and ended up in Cuba Where she now has refuge and Where the Cuban government refuses to extradite her to the United States. As a result of her conviction and subsequent prison escape, Shakur was placed on the FBI's Top Ten List 0f Most Wanted Domestic Terrorists.

Further, the Mural included a portion of the logo attributed to the New Black Panthers, which is identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center ("SPLC") as a hate group. Specifically, the SPLC defines the New Blank Panthers as a "Virulently racist and antisemitic organization Whose leaders have encouraged Violence against the Whites, Jews, and law enforcement officers."

And these cops had to BE IN THE SAME TOWN as this piece of art they didn't like! The indignity!

The very offensive letter E in question also included a quote from Assata Shakur, but, for some reason, the officers decided not to mention the very terrible quote in their complaint: "We must love each other and support each other." (We should probably also mention that Assata Shakur was convicted after an unfair trial following years of being held in the worst conditions possible, was shot by police after she had surrendered with her hands in the air, and because of that was probably physically unable to shoot a gun at Foerster.)

But back to these poor, poor cops, who were required to ... exist at the same time as this mural that offended their very delicate sensibilities. And the mural also had THE AUDACITY to be located not far from the police department!

"Law enforcement officers, including Plaintiffs, were forced to physically pass and confront the Mural and its offensive, discriminatory, and harassing iconography every time they entered the Palo Alto Police Department."


Our friends over at Techdirt looked it up, and the mural wasn't actually visible from the police station, nor did the cops have to pass it unless they decided to take a specific route to the office. So that's even better.

Is it wrong that I kind of can't wait to see them respond to the inevitable motion to dismiss and try to explain how, exactly, BLM street art discriminates against and harasses them on the basis of race?

Failure to abate the harassing and discriminatory conduct in and of itself is a form of retaliation for raising such issues (i.e., Plaintiffs raised issues that Violate the FEHA and, instead of acting, Defendants ratified the conduct and insisted that it remain and persist).

They also say they were retaliated against by the city "refusing to eliminate the harassing and discriminatory conduct, and failing or refusing to investigate Plaintiffs' complaints."

Nope. Not a thing.

Could the city have forced the artist to change the very offensive E? Probably. Any court that got into the issue would have to figure out whether it was government speech (in which case the government gets to decide the content) or a forum for others (in which case they might have to provide forums for other artists). Here, the city commissioned the mural to promote the message that Black lives matter, so it's probably government speech. Earlier this month, some white supremacists lost their bid to remove DC's BLM street mural and paint something psychotic of their own because the mural was "government speech."

But, either way, the five cops were very sad and no one even took the mean mural down for them!

Such retaliation, discrimination, and harassment are known by all Defendants and throughout the chain of command and the Department, and has been carried out and/or ratified by Defendants, or Defendants have otherwise failed to take steps to prevent or undo the retaliation, or both. This is a continuing and ongoing violation and therefore subject to the continuing violation doctrine.

I'm confused. Did no one tell them that the mural has been gone for eight months?

But, obviously, these very triggered officers are entitled to ALL THE DAMAGES.

Plaintiffs have suffered both general and special damages in the past and present and will continue to suffer such damages in the future for an unknown period of time. Plaintiffs have also suffered and continue to suffer losses in earnings and other employment benefits, as well as past and future non-economic injury. This has caused damage to their professional reputation, their ability to promote, their ability to be selected for other units, and their ability t0 work. Moreover, it has adversely affected their personal health and well-being, including medical expenses, that are anticipated into the future and may force an early retirement. Plaintiffs have also suffered extensive general damages in the form 0f anxiety, anguish, and mental suffering. Plaintiffs' damages are continuing and in an amount not yet determined, but in excess 0f $25,000.

The complaint was also filed against 100 unnamed John Doe defendants, who, we guess, didn't take the mural down?

Representing Eric Figueroa, Michael Foley, Chris Moore, Robert Parham, and Jule Tannock are Matthew McNicholas, Douglas Winter, and Emily Pincin of the firm McNicholas & McNicholas. McNicholas & McNicholas usually handles personal injury cases, but has apparently also decided to expand into bullshit racist litigation. I think someone might need to tell them that "cop" is not a protected class.

Here's hoping for sanctions!

The beautiful photo of the mural at the top of the page was used with permission from photographer Benny Villareal. You can find more of his work on his website!

Here's the complaint. It's amazing. (Though be warned that, in addition to everything else that's wrong with it, the complaint is also a prime example of how lawyers make things incomprehensible by trying to sound smarter than they actually are.)

[ Techdirt ]

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Jamie Lynn Crofts
Jamie Lynn Crofts is sick of your bullshit. When she’s not wrangling cats, she’s probably writing about nerdy legal stuff, rocking out at karaoke, or tweeting about god knows what. Jamie would kindly like to remind everyone that it’s perfectly legal to tell Bob Murray to eat shit.

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