San Jose leaders in a quandary about a Black Lives Matter street mural

San Jose city leaders are contemplating what to do with a Black Lives Matter mural north of San Jose State University. 

The mural is on three blocks of Empire Street, which was painted on July 4 to protest social injustice.

But organizers didn't ask for, or receive, permission from the city.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said he worries that other groups will paint their own messages without approval and cite the First Amendment in doing so.  

“The challenge for every city in the country is, as soon as you decide that streets can become forums for First Amendment expression, there is no ability for a city to decide that some messages are inappropriate and some are OK," Liccardo told KTVU in a statement. "That sends us down a slippery slope when the KKK wants their message printed as well.”

Organizers see it differently. 

“It was a protest. You don’t ask for permission to protest,” LaToya Fernandez, a co-organizer of the protest and founder of the community nonprofit Youth Hype, told the Mercury News. “That art protest was our way of saying we’re still being oppressed and we still feel like Black people don’t matter in San Jose and we need to make sure that’s heard and that’s felt.”

As for the mayor’s concern about opening the door to controversial messages and artwork, Fernandez said the Black Lives Matter mural is a civil rights message, not a political statement, and city leaders should be able to differentiate between them.