One Big Union (But the PBA Is Not Invited)

by Helen Rittelmeyer

Here’s a news item to keep Rand Paul away from:

The Red and Black Café is an anarchist coffee shop in Portland that caters to the niche clientele of coffee-drinkers for whom the average Portland café is not liberal enough: union radicals, homeless advocates, anti-drug-war civil disobedients, etc. Last month, a uniformed policeman on a coffee run was gently 86ed by one of the Red and Black’s co-owners on the grounds that the presence of a police officer was making the other patrons uncomfortable. Since then, the café has caught flak for being anti-cop; Fox News and CNN picked up the story this week.

The café’s no-cops-allowed rule is a perfect test of the conservative consensus on private-sector discrimination and civil rights. The policy is disrespectful to Portland’s finest, who certainly deserve better, but it isn’t part of any greater historical injustice; the Pacific Northwest has no legacy of government-imposed anti-cop discrimination. And when these true-believing anarchists say they’re made uncomfortable by an armed and uniformed policeman, they sound sincere. After all, we’re talking about an IWW-closed-shop “workers’ collective” that markets itself to, among others, the type of folks you’d expect to run afoul of vagrancy laws and drug raids. If the Wobblies want to withhold their vegan almond biscotti from anyone in a blue uniform, well, it’s their house.

To its credit, the Red and Black is resisting the temptation to make political hay out of this controversy: When Fox News came calling, the barista they talked to said, “I’ve been taking calls about this all day, and I’m kind of tired of talking about it. I have a regular job.” Conservatives inclined to take the cop’s side should show similar restraint — or, if we must play symbolic politics, let’s make this a happy story about property rights, not a sad story about leftist ingratitude to our men in blue.

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