Minneapolis police chief blasts art celebrating 3rd precinct fire

A neighborhood art contest is turning controversial, as the Minneapolis Police chief denounces an entry that depicted a burning third police precinct with a person dressed as a pig inside.

Chief Brian O’Hara called the display "appalling" and "counterproductive" after videos circulated on social media showing the crowd at the Powderhorn Art Sled Rally cheering as the sled made it down the hill.

In a lengthy email sent to sworn officers and civilian staff late Saturday night, O’Hara said he was "outraged and frustrated by the disgusting display," which depicted the infamous night the 3rd police precinct burned to the ground in the riots following George Floyd’s murder.

"Make no mistake: the burning of the 3rd Precinct stationhouse set off a signal of lawlessness that resulted in the highest levels of violence to our most vulnerable residents, but I am extremely grateful – as everyone who lives and works in this city should be – for the work that all of you do every day," O’Hara wrote.

"Saturday’s event is disgusting and counterproductive to your work and our mission," he said.

Michelle Gross, President of Communities United Against Police Brutality defended the display, saying O’Hara’s email is only driving division.

"His lack of recognition of what that third precinct represents to this community - that’s what’s not helpful," said Gross.

In his email, O’Hara noted the noticeably majority white crowd cheering along, saying, "Over the past year, I’ve been to several community meetings where I’ve seen people stand up and speak on behalf of marginalized communities…. I’ve never in my life experienced such levels of patronization and racial arrogance."

Later in the email, the chief says, "I’m confident the members of this particular group today have never experienced this type of day-to-day terror nor the trauma that results."

"I think it's completely outrageous for him to attempt to drive wedges between people based on race," said Gross in response. "People across the board suffered.  This isn’t a race thing."

FOX 9 reached out to the person claiming to be behind the display but did not hear back.