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16 Dec, 2021 20:23

NYPD commissioner appointed in front of mural praising convicted ‘domestic terrorist’

NYPD commissioner appointed in front of mural praising convicted ‘domestic terrorist’

New York Police Department commissioner Keechant Sewell, the first woman to hold the post, raised eyebrows during her swearing-in ceremony in front of a mural featuring FBI-most-wanted convicted cop-killer Assata Shakur.

Sewell was sworn in on Wednesday at Queensbridge Houses, a public housing development in Queens, in front of a mural featuring famous black revolutionaries, from slave rebellion leader Nat Turner to Black Panther Huey Newton. Sewell’s family once lived in the complex. 

Perhaps the most controversial figure in the mural, Joanne Chesimard aka Assata Shakur, fled to Cuba in 1979 after escaping from a New Jersey prison where she was being held following her conviction as an accomplice in the murder of State Trooper Werner Foerster. Granted political asylum by Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Shakur has remained in Cuba since then and lives there to this day despite a hefty FBI bounty on her head.

The 73-year-old, a member of the Black Liberation Army, was convicted in 1977 of Foerster’s murder and attained the dubious honor of becoming the first woman to be listed on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list in 2013. The agency doubled the reward for her capture to $2 million that year, the 40th anniversary of the crime, declaring her a “domestic terrorist.”

While living openly and freely in Cuba she continues to maintain and promote her terrorist ideology,” FBI special agent Aaron Ford declared at a news conference on the 40th anniversary of the highway shootout that saw Foerster and a passenger in the car with Shakur killed following a traffic stop. She and the driver of the vehicle were sentenced to life in prison.

Her cause was taken up by several high-profile civil rights activists who claimed she was not given a fair trial amid the politically-charged climate of the 1970s that saw the FBI and other government agencies infiltrate and dismantle American leftist movements like the Black Panthers, to which Shakur had previously belonged.

Incoming New York Mayor Eric Adams praised Sewell as the first woman to take on the role of NYPD commissioner. She has served in the department for 22 years and was most recently Chief of Detectives for Nassau County, Long Island. Adams heralded Sewell’s appointment, declaring that women would no longer be “always sitting on the bench, never allowed to get in the game.” 

Sewell declared she would prioritize getting crime under control as commissioner. “The first thing we have to do is get a handle on the violence in the city,” she told MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday.