Two Minneapolis police officers have been placed on paid leave from their jobs after decorating their precinct’s Christmas tree with racially insensitive memorabilia. Now, the city’s mayor is saying that those responsible will be fired, the Associated Press reports.
The display was a Christmas tree adorned with a Newport cigarette pack, a can of Steel Reserve malt liquor, police tape, empty bags of Funyuns and Takis and a cup from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. A photo of the tree was posted to the internet, and was soon picked up by several local news outlets.
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
“This behavior is racist, despicable, and is well beneath the standards of any person who serves the city of Minneapolis,” Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement. “The offending party will be fired before the day is over. Shifting the culture of the police department requires swift and decisive action. Termination is necessary — both to discipline the officer and to send a clear message: Chief [Medaria] Arradondo and I will not tolerate conduct that departs from our values.”
After the mayor’s statement, his spokesperson followed up with a clarification to the Star Tribune. “While Mayor Frey’s earlier statement reflects his sentiment, he recognizes there is a legally required process that must be followed,” said Vlatkovich. “He has full faith in Chief [Medaria] Arradondo to see that process through in a timely manner.”
In addition to the mayor’s condemnation of the display, several other notable individuals in the Minneapolis community have spoken out in response. Community activists gathered outside the precinct on Friday, saying the incident tarnishes the holiday season for the neighborhood.
“We are tired of being the city’s punching bag,” former City Council candidate Raeisha Williams said. “Here we’ve had our holiday taken away from us. Destroyed. Manipulated. By hate, bigotry and racism.”
Ron Edwards, a civil rights activist, called the display a “wink wink” to racist stereotypes.
“It’s a modern-day version of a dog whistle, tainted with racism, specifically against the African-American community,” Edwards told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
The incident is particularly controversial due to the precinct’s troubled history. In 2015, a 24-year-old African-American man named Jamar Clark was shot by Minneapolis Police. He later died after being taken off life support. Clark’s death kicked off two weeks of protests outside the station.
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