Racist Christmas Tree Is Just the Latest Show of Minneapolis Police Discrimination

Displaying a Christmas tree in a space supported with taxpayer dollars is already a circumstance fraught with potential issues. After all, the symbol endorses one brand of belief system over others, and it can be seen as hostile to those who don’t celebrate that particular holiday.

But the Minneapolis Fourth Precinct went even further, turning their personal tree into a collection of racial stereotypes — and that’s especially offensive considering this department’s ongoing problems with discrimination.

The Fourth Precinct sits in North Minneapolis, the area of the city with the heaviest population of both lower income residents and people of color. It’s where Black Lives Matter protesters congregated after Jamal Clark was murdered by police in the district in 2015. And it’s where a leading officer accused then mayor Betsy Hodges of “flashing gang signs” when she posed for a picture with a balck activist during a canvassing event.

As a “prank,” police officers in the district thought it would be funny to decorate the precinct Christmas tree to give it a more “personal” touch. They covered the tree in litter that promoted racist stereotypes of black people: malt liquor cans, empty packs of Newport cigarettes, police tape and buckets of Popeye’s Fried Chicken.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:

Longtime civil rights activist Ron Edwards called the Fourth Precinct tree decorations — a Newport cigarette pack, a can of Steel Reserve malt liquor, police tape, a bag of Takis and a cup from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen — 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.

The local NAACP calls the incident shocking, but not at all surprising considering the precinct’s past issues with rampant racism.

CBS News reports:

Minneapolis NAACP President Leslie Redmond says this incident is not isolated, and is proof this is a problem with the culture within the Minneapolis Police Department. “I was annoyed I was disheartened, but one thing I wasn’t was shocked, because the 4th Precinct time and time again have showed their disregard for the lives of people in the community and black lives overall,” Redmond said. “I believe that there are a lot of people who work 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 this up. We need to look into how many officers walked by and was OK with it.”

As a result of the display, precinct inspector Aaron Biard has been demoted, and he has been temporarily replaced until a new commander can be hired. As for the officers who are believed to be responsible for the actual tree decorations, both are on paid administrative leave as the investigation continues. Both of the officers received accolades in the past, but they were also the subject of complaints ranging from conduct reviews to accusations of excessive force.

It has long been undeniable that the U.S. police force is plagued with issues of racism –  from officers who use their authority to abuse people of color and other marginalized communities to racial bias in investigating crimes, doling out sentences and lethal force. That the Minneapolis city government is attempting to immediately address this issue is heartening, but it doesn’t do much to change the inherent racism of the judicial system itself — where a predominately white police force is brought in to use their discretion in “protecting” a community built primarily of people of color.

The racist Christmas tree is a public sign of all that is wrong with the policing community in the Fourth Precinct. Unfortunately, it’s far easier to remove a tree and place a few officers on leave than it is to address the root issues of racism that are doing the most damage in that corner of the city.

Photo credit: SeVRE Photography/Flickr

45 comments

Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson6 days ago

Thank you.

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Richard E Cooley

Thank you.

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Carol C
Carol C7 days ago

The racist culture of the police force and in our so-called justice system tears apart the communities they are supposed to protect. Better training and hiring more people of color would be steps in the right direction. Doing nothing to address the causes is unacceptable.

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Julie W
Julie W8 days ago

From my post below: " Jews, Muslims and Buddhists don't have Christmas trees". They also don't appear to be 'hostile' to anyone else having a tree. Why should they?

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MilliSiteProbs M

Cut off at the end:
Or do we go on about our business and let others live their lives, enjoy their special days and quit trying to make it a them against us out of every little thing you can come up with.

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MilliSiteProbs M

Robin, you must cause discord mustn't you! Ever consider maybe that is what they see on the streets each day and decided (prank or not) to use these items as decorations? And you should do some research, long before "Christianity" became the in-thing, Vikings and other ancient populations decorated their homes with evergreen boughs in the winter months believing that evergreens would keep away evil spirits, and illness, etc. So how can that make a tree fraught with potential issues? And here I though America was the land of the free, what a joke that has become. How can having a tree which symbolizes the birth of Christ to some, be racists and create a hostile image? Funny you should mention that the area population is manly black, the majority of people I know, whether they be black, oriental, different shades of white, Spanish, etc., decorate their homes, have Christmas trees, give toys to their children, etc. and so on. Do these groups you claim are insulted (or is it you that is insulted?), not have their own form of celebration and worship on their special days? Does everyone get bent out of shape when Muslims drop at specific times of the day to pray, or any other group that worships gods, demons, saints, statues or whatever else is out there? Or do we go on about our business and let others live their lives, enjoy their special days and quit trying to make it a them against us out of every litt

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Shelley w
Shelley w8 days ago

No Robin Marty, having a Christmas tree in a public space is not controversial in itself. We don't need to obliterate symbols of the predominate religion of the settlers who created America in the first place.

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ali a
ali a8 days ago

A wise person will always think about the result of what they do or say.

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Tabot T
Tabot T8 days ago

Thanks

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W8 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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