sights & sounds

June 6, 2010

‘being gracious’

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jay @ 4:39 am
Tags: , ,

Officer James Crooker

From; emphases mine:

In mid-May, Portland police Officer James Crooker  went to Southeast Portland on a patrol call. With a few minutes to spare, he decided to get a coffee.

So, he popped into the Red & Black  cafe on Southeast 12th Avenue near Oak Street, bought a coffee and was heading out when a customer approached him, saying she appreciates the hard job that police officers do every day in Portland.

One of the co-owners of the cafe, John Langley,  has another point of view. While the officer and customer were chatting, he walked up and asked Crooker to leave, saying he felt uncomfortable having a uniformed officer in the vegan cafe.

The incident, which was brief, speaks volumes about the tensions between Portland police and some members of the community who are more worried about police shootings than protection.

Crooker said he was surprised to be shown the door but left immediately. He said this marked a first during his nine-year in law enforcement, two in Portland and seven in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

“The places that I’ve been kicked out of before have been places like the methadone clinic,” he said. “I’ve never been kicked out of a regular cafe.”

But the 36-year-old officer, who was born and raised in Portland, said it’s all part of working this city’s streets in a uniform.

“We have a unique relationship with the community,” he said. “You’re there to protect them but on the other hand they don’t know what that involves. Being gracious is part of it.”

When Langley asked Crooker to leave, [Cornelia Seigneur] was startled.

“It was shocking,” Seigneur said. “Everyone deserves to have a coffee, and he was served a coffee. It was humiliating.”

A former Marine who served in Iraq2, Crooker didn’t take the incident to heart.

‘It was humiliating’. But probably not nearly as humiliating as, say, feeling your skull cracked open with a nightstick; being fatally shot while unarmed; or having your property stolen for daring to document cops’ BS in the first place. While cops aren’t all violent bullies1, every officer still chooses to be part of a wider system of state violence that oppresses others;  hence, they shouldn’t expect to be served in an anarchist cafe, nor should they smugly expect the public to ‘graciously’ welcome their presence – peacefully choosing not to associate with cops is much kinder treatment than they deserve.

In more uplifting news: The Red & Black Cafe has about 1200 fans on Facebook.

…and in more depressing news: The anti-Red & Black group of cop apologists has about 9000 members.

More from the article:

The cafe, too, has received a deluge of calls, with about half supporting the cafe and the rest expressing anger.

“We’ve received threats,” Langley said. “People have threatened to attack us and break our windows.”

Still, he has no regrets.

I unfortunately don’t live in Portland, so I’m unable to financially support the cafe by eating there. But! Their website does have a ‘Donate’ button; and I plan to do so, asap.

1. While I don’t think all cops are bad people, it’s practically impossible to be a cop without engaging in bad actions – if there are any cops out there who’d refuse -on principle- to hassle sex workers, arrest someone on drug charges, or round up ‘illegal’ immigrants, I haven’t heard of them.

2. I reject the notion that cops or military personnel exist to protect or serve ‘the people’ at large.

“The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: ‘Your money, or your life.’ And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat. The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the roadside, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful. The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a ‘protector,’ and that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to ‘protect’ those infatuated travelers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful ‘sovereign,’ on account of the ‘protection’ he affords you. He does not keep ‘protecting’ you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villainies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.”

– Lysander Spooner



  1. I don’t know how i feel, unless they had evidence that this was one of the cops that had done something bad, they are generalizing. I get that portland has a huge problem with cops using their power to do illegal things, but that doesn’t mean all of them do.

    But I’m assuming we both differ very much in what we see cops as, for I live in a very Hispanic place where most cops are Hispanic, thus you don’t get the racial bias there must be in other places.

    Comment by Nanci E — June 6, 2010 @ 10:05 pm | Reply

  2. I don’t know how i feel, unless they had evidence that this was one of the cops that had done something bad, they are generalizing.

    I don’t think Crooker was sent away because Langley necessarily felt he was a bad person, but because he enforces an oppressive legal system that anarchists oppose. Plus, according to the co-owners, the Red & Black attracts a crowd (e.g. anarchist activists, trans people, the homeless, animal welfare activists) that has good reason to be nervous about the presence of cops, no matter how ‘nice’ the cop might be.

    There was also the uniform – plenty of people who’ve experienced police brutality find the mere sight of police uniforms triggering, even if the person wearing it hasn’t harmed anyone.

    Comment by Jay — June 6, 2010 @ 11:37 pm | Reply

    • I won’t lie, I didn’t think of the last point, thank you for that.

      Comment by Nanci E — June 7, 2010 @ 2:26 am | Reply

  3. It seems wrong that police officers are allowed to go into a restaurant and some other places while uniformed anyway.
    While all cops are violent, abusive assholes a lot of them are, and because of that there is large segments of the community that can never feel safe or relax while they are around-and isn’t that what cafes are for? Relaxing, socialzing, etc. All of which stop for me the minute a cop walks through the door. There are people that are forever denied any “protection” the police offer simply because of who they were born as.

    You know what my problem with the Red & Black Cafe is? They asked him to leave when he *already* on his way out :/
    Wow, you really inconvenienced him. Instead of just, y’know, getting his coffee, chatting, and leaving, he just had to get his coffee and leave. Must have been horrendous for him.
    /rolls eyes

    Comment by lasciel — June 7, 2010 @ 6:53 pm | Reply

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