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Posted under: News Race & Identity

After Racist Christmas Tree Decorations By Police, Community Bans Together For Positive Alternative

Decorating a tree of their own is bringing the community together.

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Update (December 8, 2018): Nearly a week after a photo of a Minneapolis Police Christmas tree decorated with racist ornaments went viral, the community has responded with a tree of its own.

KTSP reports activists decorated a tree outside of the Minneapolis Fourth Precinct Friday night following the officers' "racist" stunt. A Popeyes cup, beer bottles, empty bags of chips and police tape trimmed the original tree. Now, activists and police aim to bring the community together with the new tree.

According to CBS News, the officers responsible are on paid leave as the department investigates. In the meantime, inspector Aaron Biard, who oversaw the decoration of the tree, has been removed from his post. Assistant Chief Mike Kjos will serve as interim commander until a replacement is hired.

"I believe that there are a lot of people working in Minnesota to actually produce justice, but I also think there are many forces working against it, and we have to recognize that this is a systemic issue, and it's not just good enough to fire the individual who put the decorations up," Minneapolis NAACP President Leslie Redmond told WCCO-TV. "We need to look into how many officers actually walked past this and was OK with it."


Original: A pair of Minneapolis police officers has been placed on paid administrative leave for decorating a Christmas tree using racially insensitive items. 

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports the two unidentified officers were responsible for using stereotypical props to decorate a tree. A viral photo posted on Twitter Friday shows a pack of Newport cigarettes, a beer can of Steel Reserve, police tape, bags of Funyuns and Takis and a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen cup hanging from the tree like ornaments. 

Over the past three years, racial tensions have been high due to over policing, police brutality and racial inequality in various areas. 

“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.”

According to KSTP, 4th Precinct Inspector Aaron Biard said the officers thought the offensive ornaments were a joke. 

Protesters gathered outside the precinct echoing the mayor's initial sentiments. However, the mayor's office retracted statements calling for the termination of the officers. 

Spokesman Mychal Vlatkovich told the media firing an officer takes more time and effort. The officers are on paid leave while an internal investigation is underway.

“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.”


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