A fugitive who has been on the lam since 1979 following her conviction for participating in the 1973 killing of a New Jersey state trooper was recently honored by JetBlue in a LaGuardia Airport display celebrating Black History Month.
The poster, which had graced LaGuardia’s Terminal 5 and featured Black Liberation Army activist Joanne Chesimard, has since been removed. Chesimard, who changed her name to Assata Olugbala Shakur before escaping from prison and fleeing to Cuba, also happens to be on the list of the FBI’s most-wanted terrorists.
She and other members of the BLA were involved in a shootout with state troopers following a New Jersey Turnpike traffic stop. Chesimard was later convicted of murdering State Trooper Werner Foerster. Cuba granted Chesimard political asylum following her escape.
— Jen Muzio (@Jennymz76Jenny) February 24, 2019
The display honoring Chesimard included a bullet point referencing her criminal status.
“Became the first woman to be placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list after escaping to Cuba from prison, where she was serving a life sentence for the 1973 murder of a police officer,” the poster states in part, while also noting that “many people believe Shakur to be a political champion who is innocent of the criminal accusations against her.”
The display, however, does not appear to be conceived by JetBlue but rather a third-party vendor known as Urban Intellectuals. The vendor’s website, listed on the poster, features a store where visitors can purchase flash cards and other merchandise honoring various black historical figures. The cards apparently can also be ordered as posters. One such card clearly portrays Chesimard, aka Shakur:
JetBlue, after being queried about the poster, released a statement regarding the controversy to the Daily Caller website:
“Our crewmembers came together to celebrate Black History Month with a display in Terminal 5 featuring prominent individuals in history. When we learned of concerns regarding one individual, we immediately removed the poster.”
The statement continued:
“The intention was always to unite our crewmembers and customers around the importance of Black History Month and we apologize for any offense the poster may have caused.”
The New Jersey State Police, however, have released a statement of their own, according to News12 New Jersey:
“Joanne Chesimard is a fugitive who was tried and convicted of the murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. We appreciate JetBlue 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 that 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.”