Fucked With by Drunk Off-Duty Cops
October 25, 2011 § 5 Comments
OK. I will report these events as plainly and accurately as possible.
This happened and I walked the 50 feet back to the bar I live in where a dozen of my friends were hanging out for our man Dean’s going away party, but I couldn’t even tell anyone this happened because it seemed so insane to me that I thought no one would believe me. I sat and ate my tacos in silence and split.
I bounced into the taco stand around 9:30 on Monday night to buy a couple tacos. I was excited. I’d been a little anxious all day that I needed to figure out how to make a little money and I’ve been a little bummed out that I can’t motivate myself to work on getting my new songs together and then I got an email offering me a little money to get some new songs together. This prompted me to get another couple hours of revision-work done on this writing I’m wrapping up, so I was feeling good – two extra hours of work I wasn’t expecting to get in today.
So, feeling great, I hop across the street like a happy goddamn carefree fucking bunny. Four men stood in there. The place is very, very tiny. Five men hardly fit unless they are all aware of granting each other some space and these men made it clear immediately that they did not deem me worthy of granting space to. They wouldn’t step aside to allow me to order. Three of the men were obviously together and they all knew the fourth guy who was alone. That fourth guy was taking to the woman behind the counter about being a cop. The other guys looked very much like cops – white guys, flat tops, clean, militant-preppy. Those three had obviously been drinking. Their eyes were flushed red and their voices were loud, their gestures broad and obnoxious.
They all got quiet when I entered and stood around me, looking me up and down. I said, “Excuse me” to step up to order and none of them moved. The shortest guy, real arrogant, coming up to barely my nose, pressed up very close to me, his chest puffed out and his face up close to mine. He said, “Hey you were downtown the other day.”
I was surprised and said, “Excuse me?”
“At the protest,” he said. “Downtown.”
We stood almost twenty blocks North and twenty blocks West of OCHQ. I don’t know why I would’ve possibly stood out to this guy. There have sometimes been as many as thousands of people there at once. I’ve been there about six times out of the 32 days it’s been happening and none of those times has been longer than a couple hours. So I’m hardly drawing attention myself there and probably just should’ve said no.
But my goddamn Catholic upbringing – of course I think of St. Peter denying Christ three times before the cock crows and that means that I can’t back down from some bully at the taco stand. So I said, “Yeah.”
Then I stepped past him to order. They all stood close to me, silent, while I ordered. I asked a couple extra questions about the Super-Nachos I had no intention of getting to buy myself a little time. I was looking for any sign from the woman behind the counter that she recognized something was happening, but nothing. And we have a little camaraderie. I’m in there a lot. She comes in Rainbo sometimes and we talk. But nothing.
“Vegetarian Tacos” gets a big laugh from my audience. They repeat it a couple times – “Vegetarian!” like they’d never heard anything so funny before.
I step back to the wall after ordering and the asshole short guy steps up close to me again.
“So how’d that go for you?”
“How did it go for you downtown? Did you get what you wanted? Was it a success?”
I didn’t know how to answer that. By this point, surrounded by four men: three of them obviously drunk, all of them obviously cops and at least one of them obviously looking for a fight, I was very nervous, aware that I was shaking a bit and my voice was wobbly. So I said, “Yeah, I think it was a success as a day, but obviously the changes people are out there looking for are bigger than one day can accomplish.”
“What are you all doing out there?”
“Well I couldn’t speak for everyone.”
“You!” At this point his voice rose and he pressed up even closer against me. The other guys were all listening close, smirking. “I want to know what you were doing out there.”
I was very nervous, but really wanted to articulate this in a non-divisive way, a way that wouldn’t provoke him and might help him understand that the protests were as much on his behalf as everyone else’s (the rights of right-wing thugs to intimidate people must be preserved!)
But mostly I was just so fucking confused. Why me? I guess he just figured this is a neighborhood in which people that might go down there live? And I look like one of those people maybe? My fashion sense can hardly be described as conspicuously smash-the-state. I’m a pretty low bar of non-conformity to get them frazzled. Shaven, my tattoos were covered, my hair washed. No one would mistake me for a surly teenager. So this must be happening to a lot of people?
But what the fuck grownup bullies another grownup? I just couldn’t believe it was happening.
I said something about standing in solidarity with people protesting systemic injustice. He looked incredulous. “What is that? Systemic injustice?”
I shrugged. His friend, a tall ugly goof laughed and said, “I don’t think he knows why he was down there.”
I shook my head and this was the weirdest part. I said, “No, I can explain exactly why I was down there, but I’m afraid you guys are about to hit me, so that’s why I’m too nervous to speak well. I think I’m about to get beat up.”
It was a weird thing to say, but now I realize that what was even weirder was that none of them were taken aback or looked surprised when I said it.
The short guy said, “I just wanted to take my wife for a nice evening downtown and then we get off the Blue Line at Jackson and there’s this angry mob. You don’t think I was afraid of being hit?”
I laughed, “Well you don’t need to worry about those people.”
“Well, how would I know? You can’t explain to me what everyone was doing down there.”
This guy was the self-satisfied ruddy face of the future storm troopers that I’ve been dreading ever since Bush’s stolen election over a decade ago. I just repeated myself. “I was there to stand in solidarity with those protesting systemic corruption.”
“Who do you want to see out of office? The incumbents?”
“Not just the incumbents. It’s systemic.”
“So you’re protesting all those who serve the public?”
“No, not those that serve the public. Those that serve their own interests at the expense of the public.”
“And you know? You know who that would be? What makes you think you know anything?”
I shrugged. He’s right. What the hell do I know? I thought of my sign I’ve been carrying and mustering all my strength to concentrate and be articulate in the face of the bully, I said, “Well, for example I’m very concerned about environmental devastation and I’m afraid that unchecked corporate power allows the destruction of the environment to continue. That is an example of a systemic problem.”
He shrugged, seemed to give me that one. You can’t argue that it’s probably not a bad idea for the earth to continue.
His friends got their food, got bored with me, realizing I wouldn’t be provoked into an argument, stepped out with their food. Other people continued to walk in and the short guy insisted on continuing this conversation around them. Everyone else stood silent and tense, occasionally glancing at me sideways to see how I was dealing with being stared down and taunted.
I asked him, “Why did you ask me that?”
He said, “I’m just curious. I want to understand what’s going on down there, what you people think you’re doing and you look like maybe I saw you down there.”
There were thousands of people last Saturday, hundreds most other days. If it’s been going on 32 days that’s over 750 hours, of which I have been present for about maybe10 hours total which would be what – one-and-a-half percent of the time? I wasn’t one of those brave enough to get arrested.
So there is no conceivable way that this asshole actually recognized me from being down there. This is just an example of the kind of person that grows up and wants to be a cop? A bully.
It’s been a long time that I’ve been jumpy about those that have a more confident step than myself. Are they that afraid? So afraid that an off-duty cop can just press anyone on the street and play dumb to the fact that he’s being intimidating? And if they are this shaken by a bunch of peaceniks standing around chanting and banging on rubber buckets – if they are so defensive against that, then how can anyone doubt the lengths that they go to behind the scenes to maintain power?
And of course, I realize as I do my best to report the facts accurately here, there is nothing – not a single thing in his words that is officially anything more sinister than one citizen making conversation with another while they both wait for tacos.
However, if it was really nothing, why was I shaking and too nervous to talk for half an hour after that?
When my food was up I grabbed it and walked out. The fourth guy, their friend they’d run into, didn’t step aside so I could reach for my food. He told the woman behind the counter that he was dreading Halloween, but at least he’s a sergeant now, so it’ll be a little bit easier.