PDX cafe owner shuns police

Carla Axtman

At best, this seems counterproductive:

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.

Yes, there is a lot of bad stuff that's gone down in the Portland area with the police. And yes, there's a lot of work to do in the community to restore public trust. But this seems way out of whack to me.

This is the kind of stuff that makes well-intentioned progressives appear intolerant and unreasonable. Langley is certainly within his legal right to ask Crooker to leave, but how this actually contributes to the community in a positive way...I'm not seeing it.

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    This is not my favorite cup of leftist tea -- looking at someone and making a snap decision, lumping them according to stereotype, is what we're supposed to be fighting against.

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    Red and Black is an anarcho-syndicalist institution that often hosts meetings and events of politically sensitive nature. Sticking to the principles is thus important. It is not just a coffee shop, it is also a well-known and looked-up-upon institution that provides space and fundraising venue for the protests and such that draw police brutality from time to time. So it is not stereotype, either. Who knows if Portland Police, uniformed or otherwise, is gathering intelligence there, COINTELPRO style.

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      Like I said in the post, I get that there are serious issues in Portland with the police. But frankly, this just seems like paranoia.

      If this place is a "looked up upon" institution in Portland, then they have a responsibility to bring the community together to make it better. This type of action does exactly the opposite.

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      “Red and Black is an anarcho-syndicalist institution. . . .”

      “I told you. We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week, but all the decision of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting, by a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs, but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more. . . .”

      The Pythons have it nailed.

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      "for the protests"...?

      What the hell does that mean "the protests"...?

      Is that an indie band or something?

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      It seems like he was looking to buy a cup of coffee.

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    I know of another local non-profit, dedicated to principles of non-violence, that had some issues with uniformed police entering as customers (as opposed to entering on police business), and the main problem was that police must always carry their weapons. The power imbalance that creates is difficult to overcome in a community setting.

    I'm not saying I'm necessarily comfortable with Langley's actions here, but I don't have the same reflexive "this is intolerant!" reaction you seem to have. And I see it as an opportunity for the Red & Black to open a dialog with PoPo, if both groups are genuinely interested in having one. If neither one is, then I agree that an episode like this doesn't make a positive contribution to the community.

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    As a society Portland doesn't allow discrimination by race, or by ethnicity, or by sexual orientation.

    So now we allow discrimination based on a person's job? Maybe post a sign saying "No police or pedicurists allowed! Accountants and stock brokers, go home!"

    It seems sort of like group punishment to me. I never liked it in grade school, and I don't like in commerce.

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    I'm wondering who the cafe owners call if they get robbed or burgled?
    "You aren't good enough to buy our coffee, but you should protect us and get our stuff back"? One less place for me to consider eating at when I'm in Portland...

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      What you have described is a violation of the ethical and/or employment codes of many police agencies in America - taking of a gratuity by a police officer.

      As to the issue at hand regarding the Red and Black, at risk of sounding like a concern troll, I don't see how denying a cop the ability to come back and have a cup of coffee is raging against the machine. Seems like a petty little power exercise. As anarchist socialist Wobblies, shouldn't they have bigger (soy-based) fish to fry?

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    Seems like a manufactured controversy. Homeless folks get asked to leave coffee shops all the time, and restaurants ask patrons to leave - or don't let them in, depending on their dress and appearance. In short, private businesses work to create spaces that feel safe and welcoming to their core patrons, and exclude some people based mainly on their appearance and what they represent.

    Not that I would have done what Langley did, but I imagine that most folks' reactions will depend on their history of interactions with the police.

    And of course, maybe people's impressions of the police (and the homeless) would change if they hung out with them at a coffee shop. Certainly there's a diversity of officers within the force - most I'd get along with, some probably not so much. Can't we all have a mug o' joe together?

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    It's the Red and Black. Consider what the majority of their usual patrons believe. Even if one person there reaches out, there's several more who are still uncomfortable and probably still upset. The type of people who probably were on the other side from the police during those riots just over a month ago. Repairing the damage is really going to require a lot of time...time during which people don't have to read about yet another unarmed person being gunned down by the police. That's the whole cause of this, and good citizens have to hold their legal system accountable. It's going to require a whole lot of "feel good reaching out to the community" on the part of the police, and very obvious changes put in place (can we try non-lethal methods of subduing a suspect for once, instead of this wild west gun toting crap?) for public sentiment towards the police to swing around again. Firing a commissioner alone isn't going to cut it with most people. The first step to repairing relations is going to absolutely have to be made by the police force themselves, because anything less would be empty and lack the encouragement for the police to make some necessary changes.

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    Sarah is right. If you're familiar with the Red & Black Cafe, you'll know why they did this. Perhaps the remarkable unstated point of the story is R&B didn't have to hold a multi-hour drum-circle conversation to reach the conclusion cops aren't welcome.

    And if you're familiar with the legacy of Portland police surveillance of political organizations and persons over the decades, you'll also accept their unwillingness to be surreptitiously infiltrated. Common belief in the 60's, 70's & 80's is the police in Portland were clean and didn't spy on people. Turned out to be false.

    See - http://www.portlandtribune.com/news/story.php?story_id=13722

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    Officer Crooker comes off as the better of the two men in this reported situation. He responded in a totally professional manner.

    The co-owner, John Langley comes away as a small minded bigot.

    Karma rules.

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    Only thing I take issue with in Carla Axtman's analysis is the line: "...this is the kind of thing that makes progressives look bad."

    The Red & Black is not staffed by progressives- it is staffed by anarchists. Quite a difference.

    If whatever media is covering this would make that distinction, that might go a ways towards not making progressives look bad.

    Anarchists, by definition don't like cops. If they did like 'em, they wouldn't be anarchists.

    Not that that is a bad thing, you know. As Utah Phillips always said, "An anarchist is a person who doesn't need a cop to tell him the right thing to do."

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    If the coffee hippy had said "Officer..just so you know, this is a Anarchist, Hippy, Vegan, protest any and everything, cop hating coffee shop. You may want to find a more pro-police store for your coffee"..it wouldn't have seemed so crass.

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    This is the same Red & Black cafe that used to be across the street from the Starbucks that was fire-bombed, right?

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    R&B, the people that preach tolerance aren't so tolerant unless it's something THEY believe in.

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      Head East, when did you ever hear an anarchist call for tolerance of the state (government)?

      Anyway, as we've seen how state communism destroyed the natural environment over which it ruled, and we see all too clearly how capitalism, even capitalism modified by democratic socialism, European-style, is just as surely destroying the environment (albeit more slowly than did state communism) something along the lines of what the anarchists envision may be what we end up with, by default.

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    So the Red and Black are Rand Paul think-alikes, favoring private discrimination in commerce. And many Blue Oregon commenters agree.

    I sense a group hug coming.

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