A bookstore on Chicago’s Lower West Side in the Mexican-American hub of Pilsen is pledging to ban police officers from shopping there and has declared itself a “police-free store.”
The declaration came about when a police officer publicly outed Pilsen Community Books, saying she had been denied service there.
Jo Riv Bridges described in a Facebook post how she tried to shop for a Bible at Pilsen Community Books and was told by a bookstore employee she couldn’t be in there because the store was not a “cop-friendly” space.
“As a gay Mexican-American woman, [who’s] served her country and continues to serve her community, I’m shocked and heartbroken,” the officer wrote on Facebook, as reported by Bookclub Chicago. “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.”
The bookstore owners released a statement on social media saying they wanted to keep the store a welcoming and safe space free of police for vulnerable people.
“We know that we keep us safe and that our community is the folks that come through our doors every day — young organizers look for their first Frantz Fanon book, teachers buying books with their own money for their classroom, parents hoping to expose their children to books that will help them imagine and create a better world. THESE people are our community, and these people are always welcome,” the statement read. “In the interest of fostering a safe space for all of those people, whenever possible, we aim to keep [Pilsen Community Books] a police-free store.”
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Community groups including Pilsen Alliance, and Ugo Okere, a leader with the 25th Ward Independent Political Organization, have announced support for the bookstore.
Meanwhile, Alderman Raymond Lopez, who is running for mayor, called the bookstore’s stance “absolutely disgusting on so many levels.”
It may not be against the law to deny service to police because their employment is not a protected class, a 2017 Vice article reported.
The bookstore’s decision comes at a time when Chicago is awash with gun violence. On the weekend of May 7, 24 people were shot in the Windy City. Six of them died, ABC Chicago reported.