the red and black is a worker-owned and managed, vegan cafe in southeast portland. it has been open at its present location since 2006, after having been run out if its previous location by an increase in rent. too bad, because the old location was a large, open space, whereas the current location is a little cramped.
on may 18th, a portland police officer entered the cafe and ordered a cup of coffee. the worker at the counter gave the cop his coffee in a to-go cup, and requested that the officer leave, as his presence could make people there uncomfortable. the officer didn’t take huge offense to the request and left. no harm, no foul, right?
before proceeding with the story, i should let you know that the portland police bureau has a reputation as gunslinging, trigger-happy murderers. anyone who has watched the tv series “cops” can easily tell when an episode was filmed in portland, because in other cities, police officers try to resolve whatever situation they encounter on the streets without resorting to lethal violence. in portland, however, the cops are quick – and eager – to draw their guns.
to put this story in context, this incident occurred at a time when there was local outrage over the second fatal shooting of an unarmed man – one of them homeless – this year. there were rallies and vigils being held to demand that police be held accountable for their lethal, unjustifyable actions, as well as the law and disorder conference – which coincidentally took place the week after one such incident, and a “police accountability” rally was held. in short, there was tension between police and the community-at-large, due to police violence.
to further set the story – the red and black is located across the street from a huge catholic church compound that includes a homeless people’s resource area that serves free meals every evening. there is a public park as well, and a couple of portable toilets. portland police have a history of harassing homeless folks. surprise!
there have been a number of incidents at the red and black caused by emotional disturbed, homeless people hanging around and harassing people. as far as i know, the workers at the cafe have never had to resort to either lethal violence or calling the police in order to deal with the situation. i also know several people who have worked in places that house emotionally disturbed people, who often have violent outbursts. again, though they have to deal with the constant threat of violence at their jobs, they have never had to kill anyone to deal with a situation caused by their clients.
so, the cop – who was having a conversation with a cop-friendly customer – leaves the cafe without causing a scene. end of story, right?
wrong-o! the woman just happens to be a blogger for local daily newspaper the (sn)oregonian, and for some reason, this incident suddenly made the news.
here’s even more background to the story, from portland indymedia:
On March 22, 2010, Officer James Crooker provided “lethal cover” as he and other officers presided over the dead body of Jack Collins, a long-time Portlander who lived outside and had just been shot to death by Officer Jason Walters at the Hoyt Arboretium. The picture that appears in the Oregonian, however, shows a smiling Officer Crooker at the Rose Festival, whom a suburbanite blogger has befriended and gushed over in her blog.
The suburban blogger witnessed the cop being asked to leave the Red and Black and just could not comprehend why cops make people, especially homeless people and political activists, uncomfortable. So she wrote on her blog about how terrible it was that Officer Crooker wasn’t invited to stay at the Red and Black and make everyone feel intimidated, and for some reason all the local mainstream media goose-steppers have felt it necessary to amplify her message if incomprehension to the nth degree.
this entire incident sounds contrived on the part of the police and media.
see the story in the oregonian, filed under “breaking news:”
one of the comments to the indymedia article sums up the sentiment behind support for the red and black’s action:
Listen, I was at the R&B the night the sea lion defense brigade spoke there, and we watched the cops roll up and “casually” hang around outside, and “casually” case the Sea Wolf, and “casually” claim they were, uh, just, uh, you know, “looking for someone.” Someone who wasn’t there. We know what that’s all about. And we’re tired of it.
another commentor listed more reasons why people are tired of the ppb:
I grew up being taught to respect the police, and that the police are here to help us. But I’ve come to realize that the police in this city – and given human nature, probably in most cities – are a violent gang of bullies. Just in the past few years or so, they’ve tortured unarmed, harmless, mentally ill people to death on an almost annual basis. They’ve pulled over countless unarmed black people and shot them to death during routine stops, and every time they have gotten off scott free for it. Sometimes, they have gotten medals for it. They recently shot a twelve year old girl with a beanbag, and then hundreds of them rallied to the defense of the officer who did it – as if, heck, “we’d all have done that.” Just off the top of my head, they pepper sprayed a baby in the face on purpose, while laughing at the father who was begging to be allowed to take his two children away from the police line. They’ve attacked peaceful demonstrators with over the top violence, and I don’t even know how many times! They pepper sprayed the glass eye out of a seventy-some year old woman who just wanted her wagon back, and when her ninety something year old mother came out with a bowl of water to collect the glass eye off the ground and clean it with? They shoved her down and used force on HER! They dumped a person out of her wheelchair and stole the wheelchair, which a judge later ordered them to give back. They shot someone to death seconds into a “routine” stop, while he was still buckled in his seat. He was unarmed. And then, after shooting him to death, they tasered his body for like, five minutes! Why? So they could later claim they had used “less lethal” force first and they just had to shoot him? Good thing someone had a recorder on them to prove what really happened. And that’s another thing. Why do so many people in this city know they need to carry cameras around with them just to record what the police are doing? Why do you think?
the story was even picked up by cnn, according to the portland mercury…
way to go, red and black! way to stand up for your community!