It looked as though a couple of police officers went dumpster diving for ornaments.
Hanging from the Christmas tree inside a Minneapolis Police Department precinct were half-crushed cans of Steel Reserve malt liquor and crumpled bags of Takis chips and Funyuns. There was a cup from the fried-chicken joint Popeyes and two packs of Newport cigarettes — pieces of actual garbage accented by a single strip of yellow crime-scene tape that didn’t quite cut it as tinsel.
If the police thought the scene was a joke, nobody was laughing.
“These pieces of trash were deliberately chosen to represent how certain officers feel about the community they serve: that Black people are a stereotype to be mocked and the lives of those they serve may as well be reduced to trash in the gutter,” said City Councilman Phillipe Cunningham in a Facebook post.
He represents constituents in the majority-black Near North neighborhood where the MPD’s Precinct 4 is located.
The two Minneapolis police officers who created the display were placed on leave Friday in response to fierce backlash from both the African-American community and public officials, including Mayor Jacob Frey who, in a statement, described the tree as “racist, despicable, and well beneath the standards of any person who serves the city of Minneapolis.”
The tree, beyond being seen as a “racist dog-whistle,” as longtime civil rights activist Roy Edwards described it, also rekindled simmering distrust between police and Minneapolis’ black community.