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'Black Lives Matter' mural removed as Palo Alto plans permanent exhibit

City manager cites increased traffic, need to prepare road for rainy season as reasons for removing project

Sixteen artists/artist groups were assigned one of 16 letters in a Black Lives Matter mural that was completed on Hamilton Avenue outside Palo Alto City Hall on June 30. Courtesy Benny Villareal.

When 16 artists painted the words "Black Lives Matter" along Hamilton Avenue, in front of Palo Alto City Hall, on June 30, the act was intended to engage the community in conversation about race and signal the city's commitment to equity and inclusion.

Since then, the City Council has advanced with its plans to revise police use-of-force policies, the Human Relations Commission has moved ahead with developing a history of the city's Black community and the Public Art Commission engaged the artists involved in the mural in a conversation about the artwork.

Crews from Palo Alto's Public Works Department remove a "Black Lives Matter" mural from Hamilton Avenue on Nov. 10. Photo by Connie Jo Cotton.

Now, the city is moving ahead with a plan to replace the mural with a more lasting statement. On Tuesday, Public Works crews removed the colorful letters off of Hamilton Avenue. According to an update that City Manager Ed Shikada provided earlier this month, the city is decommissioning the mural "due to the anticipated shift in weather and concerns over public safety and traffic impacts."

"This allows the City to schedule the road work needed by an experienced crew in advance of seasonal rainy weather," Shikada's Nov. 2 report states. "Staff also expects an increase in traffic as more business activities are allowed locally with the relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions set by the State Public Health Officer and Santa Clara County Public Health Officer."

The report notes that the mural was intended to be a temporary installation. The city had initially planned to decommission the mural by September, or by the end of the year as the mural faded, according to the report.

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The City Council approved the new mural on June 15 as part of its multipronged response to nationwide protests in the aftermath of George Floyd's killing by a police officer in Minnesota. The Public Art Commission followed suit by inviting 16 artists to each paint a letter of the mural, which stretched along Hamilton Avenue, between Ramona and Bryant streets.

The mural stoked some controversy after a lobbying group called National Police Association criticized the depiction of Joanne Chesimard, better known as Assata Shakur, in the second "E" in the mural. Chesimard is a civil rights activist and member of Black Liberation Army who escaped to Cuba after being convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1977.

In August, the council agreed that it's time for the city to shift its focus toward permanent art at the plaza in front of City Hall, which is named after civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.

"We rushed to do it as a temporary art. It came out great, really served its purpose," Vice Mayor Tom DuBois said at the Aug. 25 meeting. "The purpose was to show our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and to pull our community together — the residents, the police force and really everybody. It was unfortunate that art can also be divisive and parts of it were divisive."

"We really don't have anything on King Plaza that honors the Kings," he said. "I'd support permanent artwork on King Plaza itself."

The rest of the council agreed and directed the Public Art Commission on Nov. 2 to develop agreed a permanent art installation at King Plaza to recognize the city's priorities on race and equity.

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'Black Lives Matter' mural removed as Palo Alto plans permanent exhibit

City manager cites increased traffic, need to prepare road for rainy season as reasons for removing project

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Nov 10, 2020, 1:46 pm

When 16 artists painted the words "Black Lives Matter" along Hamilton Avenue, in front of Palo Alto City Hall, on June 30, the act was intended to engage the community in conversation about race and signal the city's commitment to equity and inclusion.

Since then, the City Council has advanced with its plans to revise police use-of-force policies, the Human Relations Commission has moved ahead with developing a history of the city's Black community and the Public Art Commission engaged the artists involved in the mural in a conversation about the artwork.

Now, the city is moving ahead with a plan to replace the mural with a more lasting statement. On Tuesday, Public Works crews removed the colorful letters off of Hamilton Avenue. According to an update that City Manager Ed Shikada provided earlier this month, the city is decommissioning the mural "due to the anticipated shift in weather and concerns over public safety and traffic impacts."

"This allows the City to schedule the road work needed by an experienced crew in advance of seasonal rainy weather," Shikada's Nov. 2 report states. "Staff also expects an increase in traffic as more business activities are allowed locally with the relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions set by the State Public Health Officer and Santa Clara County Public Health Officer."

The report notes that the mural was intended to be a temporary installation. The city had initially planned to decommission the mural by September, or by the end of the year as the mural faded, according to the report.

The City Council approved the new mural on June 15 as part of its multipronged response to nationwide protests in the aftermath of George Floyd's killing by a police officer in Minnesota. The Public Art Commission followed suit by inviting 16 artists to each paint a letter of the mural, which stretched along Hamilton Avenue, between Ramona and Bryant streets.

The mural stoked some controversy after a lobbying group called National Police Association criticized the depiction of Joanne Chesimard, better known as Assata Shakur, in the second "E" in the mural. Chesimard is a civil rights activist and member of Black Liberation Army who escaped to Cuba after being convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1977.

In August, the council agreed that it's time for the city to shift its focus toward permanent art at the plaza in front of City Hall, which is named after civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.

"We rushed to do it as a temporary art. It came out great, really served its purpose," Vice Mayor Tom DuBois said at the Aug. 25 meeting. "The purpose was to show our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and to pull our community together — the residents, the police force and really everybody. It was unfortunate that art can also be divisive and parts of it were divisive."

"We really don't have anything on King Plaza that honors the Kings," he said. "I'd support permanent artwork on King Plaza itself."

The rest of the council agreed and directed the Public Art Commission on Nov. 2 to develop agreed a permanent art installation at King Plaza to recognize the city's priorities on race and equity.

Comments

Ardan Michael Blum
Registered user
Downtown North
on Nov 10, 2020 at 10:03 pm
Ardan Michael Blum, Downtown North
Registered user
on Nov 10, 2020 at 10:03 pm
210 people like this

City Council pls use the money alloted for a permanent mural to feed poor family kids. Stop with the show-we-are "woke"!


Martin
Registered user
Downtown North
on Nov 11, 2020 at 3:02 am
Martin, Downtown North
Registered user
on Nov 11, 2020 at 3:02 am
19 people like this

Thank you Mr Shikada, thank you!!


Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 11, 2020 at 8:31 am
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 11, 2020 at 8:31 am
67 people like this

Good call as this 'street statement' was a bit of an eyesore & a potential distraction to drivers...besides, the only way to view it in its entirety is by helicopter.

A subsequent mural depicting 'justice for all' might be more appropriate as a purely BLM theme is a bit singular in concept.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 11, 2020 at 8:52 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Nov 11, 2020 at 8:52 am
41 people like this

Yes - you will note in the "Press" the VP Kamala is being celebrated for her Indian identity. So you all signed up for a "all is wonderful" concept then "all" must be celebrated in the "new" going forward government. Now everyone matters.


Name hidden
Downtown North

Registered user
on Nov 11, 2020 at 10:17 am
Name hidden, Downtown North

Registered user
on Nov 11, 2020 at 10:17 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


sueppr
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 11, 2020 at 10:45 am
sueppr, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Nov 11, 2020 at 10:45 am
12 people like this

Wow, I do not agree with the negative sentiments expressed above. I understand why we need a more formal community approval process but I am sorry to see the mural go. I am proud of the times Our city has made bold statements for justice and human rights.


Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 11, 2020 at 10:55 am
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 11, 2020 at 10:55 am
53 people like this

>"I am proud of the times Our city has made bold statements for justice and human rights."

All things considered, I don't recall 'Our city' making any 'bold statements for justice and human rights' when many of its Japanese-American citizens were being hauled away to internment camps in 1942.

The BLM & 1619 Project mindsets appear to be primarily focused on their own 'singular' issues & grievances.

Bottom line...we are all in this together.


Novelera
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 11, 2020 at 3:03 pm
Novelera, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 11, 2020 at 3:03 pm
7 people like this

@Lee Forrest: Classic example of "whataboutism".


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