Two Minneapolis police officers are on paid administrative leave and the chief of their precinct is out of a job in late November after the officers were caught decorating a Christmas tree in a manner that even David Duke would call racist.
At first glance, the Christmas tree in the city's fourth precinct looks innocent enough, but it doesn't take long to notice that instead of ornaments and mementos from years past, the tree is covered in items such as a discarded cup from Popeye's Chicken, an empty pack of Newport menthol cigarettes, Flamin Hot Funyuns wrappers, crime tape, and much more.
The incident caused a stir throughout the city's African American community, with leaders from multiple civil rights groups calling for the officers' jobs.
"Seeing the alcohol or nicotine, seeing all those things that have been thrown in the black community that are harming our community is not representative to us," Leslie Redmond, president of the Minneapolis NAACP told CBS WCCO in Minneapolis. "Again it was disheartening but not shocking. It just reiterates the disregard that the police department and the city of Minneapolis has for the black community."
Redmond told the news station that she is most surprised that the officers were actually filming themselves putting Steel Reserve cans, menthol cigarette boxes, and other stereotypes of African American culture on the tree.
"The fact that they were proud of their actions; they were taking photographs as if it was a trophy," Redmond said.
The release of the video is only making matters worse for the distance between the police department and the city's African American community.
Longtime civil rights leader Roy Edwards previously told the Washington Post that he sees the tree as a "racist dog whistle" that has done nothing but further the distrust between police and the community.
Edwards went on to explain that people in the community didn't have to ask what was so "racially insensitive" about any of these items.
"These policemen are well familiar with what racism is," he said. "They knew exactly what they were doing when they 'decorated' the tree."
And Redmond, who is glad to see some progress being made after the precinct chief was let go, still thinks there's a lot that needs to be done before everything is okay.
"I think it was necessary," she told CBS WCCO. "We need that to happen, but we have a lot of work we need to do."
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