Two Minneapolis Police Department officers have been placed on leave and the ranking officer of the Minneapolis police precinct has been removed from his post after a photo started circulating of a prank involving a Christmas tree with decorations that have been called racist.
Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder confirmed that Inspector Aaron Biard was removed from the top position at the north side precinct station where the tree was apparently photographed.
“After very thoughtful review and consideration I have made the decision that effective immediately Assistant Chief [Mike] Kjos will be responsible for the day to day operations of the 4th Precinct,” Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said in a statement.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Christmas tree in Fourth Precinct was decorated with a Newport cigarette pack, a can of Steel Reserve malt liquor, police tape, a bag of Takis (hot chili powder) and a cup from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.
Civil rights activist Ron Edwards said the tree decorations were 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 said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
A photo of the tree sparked outrage on Twitter.
“This is a photo of a racist and derogatory Christmas tree at the Minneapolis 4th precinct,” North by Northside posted on Twitter. “We must demand an apology and commitment to build better community relations. This is unacceptable.”
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
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the tree decorations were racist and called it “despicable.”
Mayor Frey said those that are responsible “will be fired before the day is over.” However, the mayor’s office had to backtrack from that statement.
Mychal Vlatkovich, the mayor’s spokesman, said a few hours later that the process of firing a police officer takes more time.
“While Mayor Frey’s earlier statement reflects his sentiment, he recognizes there is a legally required process that must be followed,” said Vlatkovich, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “He has full faith in Chief [Medaria] Arradondo to see that process through in a timely manner.”
City Council Member Jeremiah Ellison said he was at a loss for words to describe how he feels about the photo.
“Man, every way I could put it would understate it,” said Ellison, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “It’s disappointing, but also I think deeply disturbing to wake up to something like that. Not just for myself, but for my neighbors.”
Ellison said the police precinct will address the issue as a group.
The two officers are on paid leave while the department’s internal affairs division investigates the incident.
Many on Twitter were confused by the outrage:
Fail to see the racism and/or offensiveness.— Daniel Valencia (@Fetrovsky) November 30, 2018
OMG get over it.— Brenda Lee Garcia (@brendalee127) December 3, 2018
That Natty ice and funyuns is what I had in college. This shit looks like a college dorm Christmas tree.— Nicholas Winslow (@NKwinslow) December 1, 2018
Neither do I.— John Dobise (@DobiseJohn) December 2, 2018
Where’s the racism? Did I miss it? This is getting totally ridiculous, does everything have to be about race? Chill, and leave the police alone. Smh— Juanita (@juanitahl1) December 2, 2018
Cant anyone take a good old JOKE once ina while? I think they should just put up another one with Budweiser,Marlboros,beef jerky,ect— Richard Salwa (@SalwaRichard) December 3, 2018
I'm black and I don't get it.— Rocko L. Connally (@rodaxoleaux) December 2, 2018
Truth is a matter of perspective. This tree is not offensive or racist. It’s not burning in somebody’s front yard. God bless our law enforcement officers. They should be allowed to have a sense of humor. They don’t get paid enough to deal with this crap.— Stephy who? (@stephyw12) December 1, 2018
Im black & I don't think it's objectively racist. If it was a black cop, it would've been considered funny. Regardless, I think it was pretty stupid considering their job. Like people never cease to surprise w/ how little they care about their livelihood.— BootsnBeanies (@anxietyebriety) December 3, 2018
And a few were outraged:
not surprising. Many do not. that's the beauty and power of racism. It's not seen from the vantage point and lens of the racist. "racism is over" "move on…" "remember 911"— Nate Velar (@NateVelar) November 30, 2018
Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I’m working on addressing it. It might seem small to some but it simply is racist and offensive, and I’m sorry the community has to experience this from our precinct.— Jeremiah Ellison (@jeremiah4north) November 30, 2018
The items are stereotypes about the demographic of the people they arrest. They're making a caricature of the Black and Latino people they arrest. One stereotype that stands out here is the one about black people liking malt liquor and friend chicken (Popeyes cup and malt liquor)— Mikeb1906 (@Mikeb445) December 2, 2018
Well they're NOT FUNNY!!— kathy mitchell (@tPAs4AgCFyrCnj5) December 1, 2018
What do you think? Is the Christmas tree racist? Comment below:
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