An East Bethel construction firm has fired employees who were pictured mocking the death of George Floyd – including the owner's son.
Shade Tree Construction owner Mark Strandlund made a statement on his firm's Facebook page Friday in which he apologized for a photo taken by employees that saw them taking part in the "George Floyd challenge."
This apparent social media trend has seen a number of young, white males taking pictures with their knees placed on a friend's neck.
We will not share one of these pictures out of respect for the George Floyd family and those who could be traumatized from seeing them, but rest assured they exist on Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat, and are abhorrent.
The two men have been identified on social media, however at this time we've not been able to independently confirm their names. One of them is the son of owner Mark, while it's not clear who took the photo.
"As a father and business owner I would like to personally apologize for the recent events surrounding the photo that was taken by my employees, one of which was my son. It was truly insensitive and offensive, not just to the family of George Floyd, but all people," Mark Strandlund said.
"This behavior is not condoned by me, my family, or my company. I know that words only go so far, but please be assured that this is not being taken lightly. It is being dealt with on a personal and professional level to ensure moving forward it will not be repeated, and lessons will be learned from this experience."
A further addition to the post read: "For clarification on the statement above: The employees involved in this incident have been terminated from our company, as their actions do not align with our values."
Since the photo's initial spread, Housing First Minnesota dropped Shade Tree Construction as a member, saying in a statement on its site that it was "appalled to see the photo of employees of a former member firm reenacting the police action that led to the death of George Floyd."
"The firm’s membership in Housing First Minnesota and participation in the Parade of Homes have been terminated," it added.
Also commenting is Legacy Christian Academy in Andover, where the two employees are reportedly seniors.
"On May 28th, a photo that was taken, went viral through social media outlets, and came to the attention of our school leadership," the school said.
"It was offensive, inexcusable, and disrespectful to the memory, and family, of George Floyd. Our administration and Board members were disheartened that students from our school would behave in this manner. We take seriously our mission of 'equipping the mind and discipling the heart of each student for Christ-like living.'
"The photo and subsequent posts directly contradict the values and teachings we work to advance with our students. There is a standard we hold our students to, both in and out of the classroom that supports the sanctity of life and respect for all people. The sanctity of life is a value we hold dear and acting with complete disregard to the gravity of the death of a fellow human is simply wrong."
The school however said it's not allowed to reveal disciplinary measures taken due to privacy laws.
Mistaken identities resulting from photo fallout
Shade Tree Construction has been inundated with calls, emails and negative reviews since the picture appeared.
But it should be noted that another firm called Shade Tree Construction, in North Carolina, has been mistaken for the East Bethel company and has asked people to please stop.
"Please everyone I am not the Shade Tree Construction that posted the absolutely horrible photos making fun of the death of George Floyd," it wrote.
"Those photos came from a company called Shade Tree Construction Inc. in East Bethel, Minnesota."
It should also be noted that the number listed on Google for Shade Tree Construction, ending in 7821, belongs to that of a private homeowner and should not be called. The actual number, which ends in 7962, currently has a full mailbox.