“There will be cultural sensitivity training and a community outreach event planned.”
A Minneapolis Police Department outraged residents of its mostly black precinct with its choice of Christmas tree decorations this year.
The 4th Precinct adorned the branches of its tree with half-crushed cans of malt liquor, crumpled bags of Funyuns, a cup from Popeyes chicken, and two packs of Newport cigarettes. The festive display was topped off with yellow crime-scene-tape tinsel.
The decorations were apparently a Christmas prank. But local black residents were not feeling the holiday spirit.
Longtime Minneapolis civil rights activist Ron Edwards described the tree as a “racist dog-whistle” and called for a black officer to be put in charge of the 4th Precinct. Social media users were similarly outraged.
This is a photo of a racist and derogatory Christmas tree at the Minneapolis 4th precinct. @jeremiah4north @CunninghamMPLS @Jacob_Frey We must demand an apology and commitment to build better community relations. This is unacceptable. pic.twitter.com/xNq4CUZUu5
— North by Northside (@northxnorthside) November 30, 2018
Taking note of the backlash, public officials and offered their own condemnation along with calls for action.
City Councilman Phillipe Cunningham, who represents the Near North neighborhood that the precinct serves, said the selection of trash was clearly meant to mock black people. He promised “cultural sensitivity training and a community outreach event.”
Mayor Jacob Frey called the tree “racist, despicable, and well beneath the standards of any person who serves the city of Minneapolis.” Frey at first vowed that the officers responsible would be fired by the end of the day “both to discipline the officers and to send a clear message.” But hours later, his office walked back the threat after he learned there is a legally mandated process for firing an officer.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said he was “ashamed and appalled” by the “racially insensitive display” and said a full investigation had been launched into the incident. The two officers who decorated the tree were placed on leave Friday.
Amid an uptick in racial tensions in America ― which liberals blame on President Donald Trump and white cultural anxiety, and conservatives blame on out-of-control identity politics ― some said the tree confirmed that the precinct was hopelessly racist. Three years ago, activists staged a 16-day occupation outside the station to protest the fatal shooting by police of Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old black man.
“I just could not believe that after everything we’ve been through to try to change the narrative about the African American community, that our police officers still held that same mind-set,” Black Lives Matter Twin Cities activist Chauntyll Allen said at a news conference Friday. “They have no respect for the lives that have been lost.”