The Christmas tree in the Minneapolis North Side Precinct was described as a “racist display” by Mayor Jacob Frey. The two officers responsible for decorating the tree were subsequently put on leave, pending an internal affairs investigation into the matter.
The precinct has been trying to regain the community’s trust since 2015, when Jamar Clark was fatally shot by an officer. The precinct quickly denounced the decoration, and referred to it as a provocative insult.
According to Ron Edwards, a civil rights activist, the decorations were a “wink wink” to racial stereotypes. The decorations included a can of Steel Reserve malt liquor, a Newport cigarette pack, a bag of Takis, police tape, and a cup from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. He stated, “It’s a modern-day version of a dog whistle, tainted with racism, specifically against the African-American community.”
The photo caused a fracas at City Hall after it was posted on social media, and Frey described the decorations as “despicable” and “racist.” He went on to promise that the people responsible for the decorations “will be fired before the day is over.”
However, Mychal Vlatkovich, Frey’s spokesman, stated that the firing process would take time, and that the officers were still being paid.
He stated, “While Mayor Frey’s earlier statement reflects his sentiment, he recognizes there is a legally required process that must be followed. He has full faith in Chief [Medaria] Arradondo to see that process through in a timely manner.”
Council member Jeremiah Ellison stated that he did not know how to articulate his reaction when he saw the picture of the tree. “Man, every way I could put it would understate it,” he said, “It’s disappointing, but also I think deeply disturbing to wake up to something like that. Not just for myself, but for my neighbors.”
Chief Medaria Arradondo stated that he was “ashamed and appalled by the behavior of those who would feel comfortable to act in such a manner that goes against our core department values of Trust, Accountability and Professional Service.”
He added that he had “initiated a full investigation and will make information public when possible in accordance with Minnesota State Statute.”
One organizer with Black Lives Matter Twin Cities, Chauntyll Allen, responding to the Chief’s statement, asked; “It was clearly there, what more needs to be investigated?”
However, Council Member Phillipe Cunningham stated that he was confident that Arradondo wiould “permanently eradicate this ugly racism from the police department.”