A New Jersey state trooper lost his job after posting a T-shirt to Instagram to support his cousin’s clothing company. The shirt was printed with the words “Black Excellence,” and featured nine portraits of African-American women who played a pivotal role in history, such as Harriet Tubman and Maya Angelou. Another woman featured, pictured on the lower right, was Joanne Chesimard also known as Assata Shakur, who was convicted of killing a state trooper in 1973. The women were not identified by name on the T-shirt.
Officer Nyron Harris said he didn’t recognize or realize that Shakur was featured on the shirt. However, his peers on the force were enraged and in the end, he lost his job because of that Instagram post, according to a lawsuit that Harris is filing.
Harris calls the Instagram post an "honest mistake.” According to New Jersey.com, his lawsuit claims that his firing violates New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination. Harris, who is African-American, and his lawyer claim that white troopers on the New Jersey State Police force have been accused of much worse behavior. However, they are still employed, according to that lawsuit. One discipline report shows that some New Jersey state troopers were found guilty of domestic violence and drunken driving in 2016. They were suspended but they did not lose their jobs.
Shakur was not only convicted on murder charges. The FBI lists her as one of their most wanted terrorists. The FBI describes Shakur’s crimes as follows: “Chesimard, who was part of a revolutionary extremist organization known as the Black Liberation Army, and two accomplices were stopped for a motor vehicle violation on the New Jersey Turnpike by two troopers with the New Jersey State Police. At the time, Chesimard was wanted for her involvement in several felonies, including bank robbery. Chesimard and her accomplices opened fire on the troopers. One trooper was wounded and the other was shot and killed execution-style at point-blank range.”
She escaped prison six years after her conviction. She fled to Cuba and was granted political asylum in that country. Shakur has always maintained her innocence and said at her trial after her guilty verdict was read: “You abuse the law. I know it [the trial] was racist. I knew the judge was unfair. You have convicted a woman who had her hands in the air, who is innocent.”
Some believe she was wrongfully convicted. She remains a controversial yet iconic figure.
According to New Jersey.com, some of the details of the internal investigation which ended in Harris’ termination were posted on The Outfit, which is a private Facebook group run by retired state troopers. One member of that group allegedly called Harris a “human SH*T STAIN” and another called Harris’ Instagram post "a slap in the face of every trooper out there doing a tough job."
Spokesmen for the State Police have declined to comment.
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