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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Pilsen Bookstore Pledges To Refuse Service To Cops As Owners Declare It A ‘Police-Free Store’

A police officer was told to leave Pilsen Community Books when she came in to buy a book, she said. "As a gay Mexican-American woman ... and a member of the community, I'm shocked and heartbroken."

Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
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PILSEN — A Pilsen bookstore is pledging to be a “police-free store” after a police officer said she was denied service there last week.

In a post that was shared more than 150 times, a woman who identifies herself on Facebook as Jo Riv Bridges said she walked into Pilsen Community Books, 1102 W. 18th St., in uniform Tuesday looking to buy a Bible. She said she was told by a woman working at the bookstore she couldn’t be in there and it 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. “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 officer wrote that she lived in Pilsen for seven years, but it’s unclear if she is still a resident. She declined to comment to Block Club beyond her social media post.

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.

“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 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.”

An owner for Pilsen Community Books declined to comment beyond the statement.

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 outlets. A 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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