Published December 12, 2006
NEW YORK – New York City college students who share a community room named for an escaped cop killer called the fugitive their hero Tuesday as the school's officials demanded the removal of the honor.
"We know that many Black people that fought for better conditions in the 70's were framed," the groups said in a statement released to FOXNews.com. "We consider Assata Shakur to be one of the people who were wrongfully and purposefully framed for her activities.
"And we consider her a hero and role model for standing up for our people and putting her life on the line."
The chancellor of City University of New York, meanwhile, demanded the "unauthorized and inappropriate signage" be removed.
"Only The Board of Trustees of The City University of New York may designate or name College and University facilities," Goldstein wrote to City College President Gregory H. Williams.
The Guillermo Morales/Assata Shakur Community Center on the third floor of CCNY's North Academic Center was named in 1989 for Shakur, convicted in the 1973 murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster, and Morales, a former member of FALN, which is a Puerto Rican liberation group that claimed responsibility for a rash of bombings in New York in the mid-1970s.
"The president and the chancellor are in full agreement, the sign — which actually was put up by students — in no way reflects the college's or the university's support for the individuals who are named," said Mary Lou Edmondson, spokeswoman for the college, adding, it "is unauthorized and inappropriate and steps will be taken to take it down."
The center is shared by the Student Liberation Action Movement and Students for Educational Rights — groups with approximately 45 members total, Edmondson said.
The United Federation of Students, Union de Jovenes Dominicanos, The Messenger, The Pre-University Program, CCNY Coalition Against the War and CUNY for All! are also listed as sharing the space, according to a sign on the door emblazoned with a painted fist.
A "Morales/Shakur Information Table" outside the office had literature on everything from a campaign to give used books to prisoners to a Philadelphia rally to free convicted murderer Mumia Abu-Jamal.
A student in the Morales/Shakur office, who declined to be interviewed, gave FOXNews.com the joint statement on the naming of the center.
"We would like to close by saying that the American people have a right and a duty to find out the facts about this situation for themselves before they judge it," the student statement said. "And Assata, we love you."
In 2005, the FBI named Shakur, whose real name is Joanne Deborah Chesimard, to its list of most wanted domestic terrorists, placing a $1 million bounty on her head.
In 1977, Shakur was convicted of Foerster's murder during a routine traffic stop. Shakur had been a member of the Black Liberation Army and was wanted in connection with several felonies, including bank robbery, the FBI said.
She skipped out on the life sentence, escaping from prison in Clinton, N.J., on Nov. 2, 1979. She's now believed to be living in Cuba.
A City College student wrote a letter to the Daily News about the naming of the community center, prompting the paper to report Monday that police groups have been angered the school allowed the room to be named for a convicted cop killer.
"We use tax dollars to support an institution that indemnifies a cold-blooded terrorist?" Dave Jones, president of the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association, told the Daily News.
"She's a cowardly, cold-blooded convicted murderer who's part of a murdering sect," he told the newspaper. "She's no different from those people who flew those planes into those towers and destroyed all those innocent lives."
On her Web site, http://www.assatashakur.org/, Shakur says she is innocent.
"I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one," she said.
Shakur, who is the godmother of slain hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur, has been heralded as a hero among the hip-hop community and political activist groups and reviled as a villain by police organizations.
Morales is also exiled in Cuba.
Students questioned on the City College campus by FOXNews.com Tuesday hadn't heard about the flap.
"If you look at it at face value and think about what she did, it might seem wrong, but I think you really have to, like, look beyond the whole thing with the cops to really understand, like, where she's coming from," said Orlando Ayala, a 24-year-old senior.
Sophomore Carlos Badilla, 20, of the Bronx, wanted to know why the center was named after Shakur.
"If it had nothing to do with killing the cop, it's alright," he said. "You have to think why she did it, cause cops are known to mess with some people, you know. If she had a reason to do it then I have no problem with it."
But senior Diana Perez, 27, disagreed.
"I don't see why they would name it after a woman like that," she said. "I don't know their reasons behind it, but I don't think it's a good idea."