Meeting between Minneapolis community members, city leaders falls through

The fallout continues between some Minneapolis residents and the 4th precinct after two officers were suspended for decorating a Christmas tree with racist undertones.

Sunday night, a meeting between police and some city leaders fell through after disagreements on the best approach to fix relations.

Several clergy leaders told FOX 9 they set up this discussion with the assistant chief who is temporarily overseeing the 4th precinct after the Christmas tree controversy, but when they showed up, the doors were locked.

“We are trying to have these conversations about what is going on in our community,” said Valerie Castile.

Castile joined Bishop Harding Smith, pastor of the Spiritual Church of God in Robbinsdale, City Councilor Jeremiah Ellison and Abdul Karim Bilal, who leads a local mosque outside the 4th precinct Sunday evening.

“The cancellation of the meeting tonight should not be a deterrent, it should give us more determination to go forward,” said Bilal.

The group says they were scheduled to meeting inside the department with Assistant chief Mike Kjos and other officers to discuss ways to heal relations with the community, but at the last minute, the meeting was off.

“Here we are, the police are locking the doors. They are saying, ‘You are not wanted here.’ They are saying, ‘There is no meeting set up with you,’ and we have to stand outside,” said Smith.

A spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department told FOX 9 they did not feel it was appropriate to attend a meeting with only a handful of community members when the public was reportedly not invited.

In a statement, the department said, in part, “The Minneapolis Police Department is interested in building bridges with all communities.  An event such as this where it is limited only to the media falls short of true community engagement."

Minneapolis Police suspended the two officers involved in decorating this tree that was perceived by many as racist. The Commander was also removed.

Friday evening, Chief Medaria Arradondo stood in solidarity with residents as he helped decorate this Christmas tree placed outside the building.

Ellison says there needs to be continued efforts to come together between police and the people they serve.

“One canceled meeting might feel like, in the grand scheme of things small, but it’s part of the thousand cuts that contributes to eroding relationships,” Ellison said.

It’s unclear when another meeting will take place. There is an open letter where people in the community have signed demanding the entire 4th precinct here be overhauled from top to bottom. The letter will apparently be delivered to the chief and mayor tomorrow.