Queens, NY – For the first part of February, the Black History Month display in the JetBlue terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) featured a poster celebrating a woman who is a terrorist on the FBI most wanted list and convicted cop killer.
Joanne Chesimard, who goes by the name Assata Shakur, was convicted of murder in 1977 for fatally shooting New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973.
Trooper Foerster was executed with his own duty weapon on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike, according to New Jersey Advance Media.
While serving a life sentence in 1979, Chesimard escaped from prison and fled to Cuba, where she has remained in in political asylum for 39 years.
Chesimard, 71, is on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists.
But despite those terrifying credentials, she was featured in a prominent display of posters celebrating black leaders on the JetBlue concourse at JFK in February.
“Assata Shakur, July 16, 1947 – Present,” reads the Black History Flashcard purchased from Urban Intellectuals.
“Civil Rights activist and a member of the Black Panther Party,” the listing of her leadership credentials began.
“Regarded as a hero for her protests against racism and her role in the 1970s Black Liberation Army,” the poster continued.
“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 bragged.
“Many people believe Shakur to be a political champion who is innocent of the criminal accusations against her,” it added.
Blue Lives Matter was contacted by several travelers who had seen the poster in the JetBlue terminal and were horrified.
“Who the f--k in their right mind would think it’s appropriate to list her alongside black leaders?” asked an officer from the New York Police Department (NYPD).
A New Jersey State Police trooper told Blue Lives Matter he likened posting Chesimard’s picture at JFK to displaying posters of notorious Philadelphia cop killer Mumia Abu Jamal inside the Philadelphia airport.
He called it a slap in the face to the police officers who keep the region safe.
“Especially inside the secure area, past the TSA checkpoint at JFK,” the trooper pointed out. “Aren’t we sending mixed messages about safety and security here?”
Initially, members of law enforcement assumed the offensive display had been created by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and that the airline probably knew nothing about it.
JetBlue has stepped up to the plate on several occasions to provide flights for police officers and their families attending funerals for fallen officers, and the NYPD officer said he thought the Chesimard poster seemed completely out of character for the airline.
However, Blue Lives Matter contacted port authority officials and learned that was not the case.
A spokesman for the port authority pointed the finger for decision-making squarely at JetBlue, and referred Blue Lives Matter to them for comment.
Blue Lives Matter contacted JetBlue on Thursday afternoon to inquire about the poster but did not hear back from their spokesperson until Thursday night.
In the meantime, the poster was removed from the JetBlue concourse at JFK.
“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 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,” JetBlue Corporate Communications told Blue Lives Matter in an email.
JetBlue also said the Chesimard poster had only been displayed at JFK, and not in any other airports.
Some in law enforcement were thrilled just to have the poster taken down, and didn’t seem to hold a grudge against the normally pro-police airline.
“Actions speak louder than words,” the NYPD officer said. “What they’ve done for funerals for cops far outweighs an offensive sign. We can’t be little snowflakes each and every time somebody does something along these lines.”
The New Jersey state trooper wasn’t as forgiving, but said he figured it was a mistake.
“I’m guessing that whoever okayed it on JetBlue’s end didn’t know who she was and is pretty pissed and embarrassed about the whole thing now,” he said.
Because the officer Chesimard murdered was from New Jersey, she is well-known in the region that JFK airport serves.
In 2018, a New Jersey state trooper was fired after he posted a picture on his Facebook page of a t-shirt with her image on it.