Woke bookstore in Chicago kicks out Hispanic female police officer, tells her it is ‘not a cop-friendly space’

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CHICAGO, IL — A bookstore in a city riddled with violence and death reportedly told a female police officer to leave the premises and warned it was not a safe space for her.

The bookstore, Pilsen Community Books, is located in Pilsen, which is in the Lower West Side of Chicago. It is an area rich in Latino culture and has a lot of taquerias, thrift shops, restaurants, music venues and a museum that focuses on Mexican art.

The bookstore promotes and sells books popular with leftists, such as A.M. Gittlitz’ “I Want to Believe Posadism, UFOs and Apocalypse Communism,” Gavin Mueller’s “Breaking Things at Work,” Immanuel Ness’ “Organizing Insurgency Workers Movements in the Global South,” and more.

It also sells book bags and T-shirts that contain the anti-police acronym ACAB [All Cops Are Bastards]. The merchandise’s acronym purportedly represents “always carry a book.”

On May 17, a Facebook account with the name Jo Riv Bridges posted about her alleged encounter with Pilsen Community Books. Bridges did not identify which law enforcement agency she works for, but some on social media have identified her as an Illinois State Trooper.

On Facebook, Bridges wrote that she was in uniform and popped into the bookstore to purchase a Bible:

“Today I passed by my beloved Pilsen and stopped at a bookstore to buy a bible for my home. I recently bought one and it’s small, so figured I’d get something bigger.

“When I walked in, in uniform, I was told I couldn’t be in there because of my equipment. I told her I was on duty, and could carry.

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“She went on to say ‘this is not a cop friendly space’.  As a gay Mexican-American woman, whose served her country and continues to serve her community, I’m shocked and heartbroken.

“My beloved Pilsen, my home, my barrio where I lived for 7 years and still own a home there…I’m embarrassed and heartbroken for the way she treated me.

“I promise you, I didn’t get mad as I walked out but my voice did crack when I told her how as a woman, a Mexican, a member of the community, I couldn’t believe what she was doing.

“Thanks Pilsen Community Books.  Promise to never go there again.”

In a May 18 Twitter thread, Pilsen Community Books confirmed it was aiming “to keep PCB a police-free store.” The thread noted:

In the words of Ruth Wilson Gilmore, ‘abolition is presence’. Fighting for a world where everyone is free is more than a cheeky t shirt, a slogan or a few well-timed tweets; to us, it means fostering a space where the most vulnerable feel welcome and safe.

“We know that WE keep us safe, and that our community is the folks that come through our doors every day— young organizers looking for their first Frantz Fanon book, teachers buying books with their own money for their classroom…

“We know that WE keep us safe, and that our community is the folks that come through our doors every day— young organizers looking for their first Frantz Fanon book, teachers buying books with their own money for their classroom… 

“THESE people are our community, and these people are always welcome. In the interest of fostering a safe space for all of these people, whenever possible, we aim to keep PCB a police-free store.

“THESE people are our community, and these people are always welcome. In the interest of fostering a safe space for all of these people, whenever possible, we aim to keep PCB a police-free store.

“Let’s begin our abolitionist journey not with the question ‘What do we have now, and how can we make it better?’ Instead, let’s ask, ‘What can we imagine for ourselves and the world?’ If we do that, then boundless possibilities of a more just world await us. —Mariame Kaba”

Many of those commenting on various social media posts regarding the alleged incident between the bookstore and Bridges were mostly supportive of the officer and negative toward the store for telling her it was not a police-friendly space.

Local news outlet Block Club Chicago reported:

“Pilsen Community Books opened in the gentrifying neighborhood in 2016, and new owners took over in 2019. The neighborhood, a historic port of entry for Mexican immigrants, has seen an exodus of Latino families in recent years.

“The bookstore’s owners released a statement on social media Wednesday in response to the incident, saying ownership wants to keep the store a welcoming and safe space for vulnerable people and free of police.”

Block Club Chicago also noted that an owner of the bookstore declined to comment beyond what was posted on May 18 regarding keeping the store “police-free.”

The news outlet further reported:

“The bookstore is also known for printing ‘Always Carry A Book’ merchandise, which shares initials with a pro-abolition, anti-cop slogan, and has raised money for jail reform groups.

“Community groups, including Pilsen Alliance ,and Ugo Okere, a leader with the 25th Ward Independent Political Organization, publicly came out in support of the bookstore, while Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), who is running for mayor, called the bookstore’s stance ‘absolutely disgusting on so many levels.’

“Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), who represents Pilsen, declined to comment.

“Other instances where businesses denied service to police officers have been reported in national media outletsA 2017 Vice article reported it may not be against the law to deny service to police officers because their employment doesn’t make them a protected class.”

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