JetBlue celebrates Black History with poster of convicted NJ cop killer
The New Jersey State Police thanked JetBlue for apologizing and removing a poster that celebrated the state's most wanted fugitive.
The Black History Month poster at LaGuardia Airport featured a large image and short biography of Assata Shakur, who is still being identified by authorities by her birth name of Joanne Chesimard.
Chesimard was sentenced to life in prison in 1974 after being convicted of first-degree murder of a state trooper in 1977. She escaped from prison in 1979 and has been given sanctuary in Cuba.
Chesimard was in a vehicle that troopers had pulled over on the New Jersey Turnpike in East Brunswick because they were bank robbery suspects. During a struggle, one of the men took the gun of Trooper Werner Foerster and fatally shot him. Chesimard, a member of the Black Liberation Army, was charged in connection to the shooting.
Over the years, radical political groups have held up Shakur as a civil rights icon much to the chagrin of New Jersey law enforcement and political leaders. In 2017, the Women's March account on Twitter celebrated Shakur's birthday — and then defended their laudatory message in the face of criticism.
President Donald Trump, on the other hand, has made the extradition of Shakur to New Jersey and the return of other fugitives a key demand in U.S. policy toward Cuba.
The JetBlue poster described Shakur as a "civil rights activist" and a "hero" and "community advocate." The poster says "many people believe Shakur to be a political champion who is innocent."
After some blowback, JetBlue removed the poster and apologized "for any offense the poster may have caused."
In response, the State Police on Thursday thanked the airline.
"Joanne Chesimard is a fugitive who was tried and convicted of the murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster," the State Police said on its Facebook page. "We appreciate Jet Blue removing the portrait of Chesimard out of respect for the Foerster family, the men and women of the New Jersey State Police, and all of the men and women in law enforcement who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. We will never forget the service of Trooper Foerster and remain steadfast and committed in our efforts to bring Chesimard to justice."
The State Police honored Black History Month in its own way. Colonel Patrick Callahan, the leader of the force, last week met with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who made history as a black man by seeking the Democratic nomination for president in the 1980s.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.