Minneapolis, MN – Two Minneapolis Police Department officers were placed on leave after a photo of a prank involving a Christmas tree was circulated with the tree decorations called racist.
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, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
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 was posted 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.”
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said Friday the tree decorations were racist and called it “despicable.” Frey said those 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.
The officers are still being paid pending an internal affairs investigation.
“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 has to address the issue as a group.