Home // Uncategorized // Why wouldn’t an anarchist cafe eject a cop?

Why wouldn’t an anarchist cafe eject a cop?

There are good people wearing police uniforms and there are bad people wearing police uniforms. More to the point, however, people in police uniforms have willingly chosen to take a job in which they act, at best, as enforcers of laws passed by government officials — and often as agents of the whims of those officials. So it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody that the proprietors of the Red and Black Cafe, an avowedly anarchist establishment in Portland, Oregon, asked Officer James Crooker to take his business elsewhere. If you don’t like governments, why would you want to serve people who willingly work for them?

That gut-level, ideological opposition to the role of police officers likely explains the seeming inability of cafe co-owner John Langley to articulate a clear reason he gave the officer the boot at the time of the incident. Crooker is a cop; in Langley’s mind, that was probably reason enough. Langley’s early lack of clarity has been seized upon and mocked by police supporters — generally in poorly spelled and badly reasoned comments that default to mantras about cops being the thin, blue line that stands between decent folk and howling barbarians, even as they threaten arson against the cafe, urge officers to take their time responding to incidents there, and call for the city to have a politicized look at the cafe’s compliance with all rules and regulations.

If you’re an ideological supporter of government power, it’s easy to fall back on unreasoning support for the state’s servants (and, ironically, validate objections to government power in the process).

Given time to ponder, Langley came up with clearer articulation of his concerns:

I don’t have anything against this particular officer and I don’t know anything about him…A police officer in uniform makes people feel unsafe because of previous experiences…

We’re gonna value the people that have been victims of police violence. Some of them have talked about having their belongings being taken away or sprayed with water. It is exacerbated by the situation in Portland right now. The response to the mental health crisis is shooting people and beating people to death.

The anarcho-entrepreneur didn’t pull his reasons out of thin air. Less than a month ago, after a series of police shotings and complaints about the official response, Portland Mayor Sam Adams booted the city’s police chief and took direct control of the police department. In a press conference, he said (PDF), “Despite the extraordinary efforts of the courageous few who wear the badge, the relationship between the citizens of Portland and their police officers is not what it needs to be. Too many Portlanders express concern about their own safety–not because of crime, but rather fear of their own police force.”

Less dramatically, police are clearly working these days less as a thin blue line against crime than as tax collectors who selectively enforce laws with an eye to maximizing revenue for the government. In 2008, the Detroit News found that Michigan police departments were stepping up traffic enforcement solely to increase the money they collected.

“When I first started in this job 30 years ago, police work was never about revenue enhancement,” Utica Police Chief Michael Reaves said. “But if you’re a chief now, you have to look at whether your department produces revenues. That’s just the reality nowadays.”

Officials elsewhere are equally open about their roadside revenue-enhancement efforts. It’s difficult to see a public safety aspect to the use of laws as means for mugging the public. If there’s a thin blue line, it leads directly to people’s wallets — and tags police as, too often, nothing more than agents of state power, for any purpose, good or bad.

Yes, police can do good deeds and often play a legitimate role in responding to crimes against people and property — maybe the critics will be right and John Langley will someday wish a cop were present to deal with a stick-up artist. But he and his colleagues have good reasons, ideological and practical, to object to the presence of a police officer in their place of business.

At least a few people agree with the Red and Black Cafe’s stance — business is reportedly way up since the incident.

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  • On your logic, the cafe should refuse to do business with ALL govt employees

  • “There are good people wearing police uniforms and there are bad people wearing police uniforms.”

    Alas, JD, you are incorrect. There are only bad people wearing uniforms.

    If there were any good cops, we would hear the occasional news story about a known ‘bad cop’ being found face-down in a muddy ditch.

    We do not hear such stories.


  • Frank,

    I’ll grant your point about “good” requiring some sort of reaction to the abuses of other cops — the NYPD officer who recently taped his colleagues and superiors and was hustledoff to the loony bin for his troubles strikes me as a (rare) example.


    I have no objection to the cafe shunning all government employees — that might be something we should all consider.

  • JD,

    I encourage you, Ray and others opposed to governments to do some serious “consider[ing]” of “shunning all government employees” – first and foremost however, enforcers in all agencies who have rejected attempts at logical persuasion. With far fewer enforcers, all the laws/edicts/mandates/regulations/etc that are initiated/passed/approved by legislators/bureaucrats/executives at all levels of government would be nothing but paper.

    When large numbers of people in an area refuse to voluntarily associate with law/regulation/edict enforcers *and* the reasons made well known, some of them will resign their positions rather quickly. And if it is clear that the same negative Social Preferencing (“shunning”) will be used towards any replacements, the total numbers of enforcers will begin to fall. It is not a quick process – it can not be if it is to be effective towards withering a social system that is still accepted by the majority as being necessary for an orderly society. More – http://selfsip.org/focus/protestsnotenough.html

  • Apparently the blogger in question (Cornelia Seigneur) has started some sort of crusade for downtrodden officers since this terrible, scarring incident. Her followup posts, and the police appreciation Facebook page she started, are some badge licking of rare quality.

  • Gerard Bendiks

    June 11, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    “I have no objection to the cafe shunning all government employees — that might be something we should all consider.”

    We currently shun rock-n-roll bass solos and pretty much the entire jazz world (especially the more “avant” varietals), for better or for worse. Seems to me just a simple ol’ application of freedom of association and of not associating.

    In order to open this cafe had to comply with all manner of dictats from the Police People. In order to stay open this cafe has to comply with all manner of dictats from the Police People. Maybe this cafe owner just said, “Fuck it, I’ve dealt with these Police People enough.”

  • Using the logic of no police or gov’t employees, then no one receiving any gov’t benefits should be allowed in the Red & Black. When he gets robbed, and doesn’t call the police, but calls his community friend, what are they going to do? Anarchists are a fun concept until you think the process all the way through and realize you do need structure and laws, maybe not the total bureaucracy e have today, but you need structure.

  • Joe,
    Your logic doesn’t really follow. The cafe has the right to set its own standards as to who it allows in and doesn’t, and those standards may encompass any recipients of government largesse, just government workers, or only those who work as enforcers for the state, such as police and, perhaps, regulators and inspectors.

    Government supporters like to pretend that only police can respond to crimes, but modern police forces are only about 160 years old. That doesn’t necessarily mean, in itself, that the state can be entirely dispensed with, but it does mean that crimes can be addressed by ad hoc members of the community, since that’s the way it has usually been handled.

    Note, too, that anarchism doesn’t reject structure or rules; it rejects the coercive power of the state. There’s an awful lot of writing about (and real life examples of) non-coercive alternatives.

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