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Chicago store accused of kicking out uniformed police officer shopping for Bible

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Unsplash/Tom Hermans

A Chicago bookstore has been accused of asking a woman purporting to be an Illinois police officer to leave the store because it was not a "cop-friendly" business.

The incident was first reported on May 17 by a Facebook user going by the name of Jo Riv Bridges, who said she walked into her "beloved" Pilsen Community Books (PCB) in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago to purchase a Bible while dressed in her on-duty uniform.

As of Wednesday afternoon, her post has received nearly 500 reactions, more than 100 comments and almost 200 shares.

Bridges — who identified herself as a "gay Mexican-American woman" — said she was initially told to leave the store because of her police gear.

"When I walked in, in uniform, I was told I couldn't be in there because of my equipment. I told her I was on duty, and could carry," she wrote.

At that point, a PCB employee told Bridges: "This is not a cop-friendly space." 

"As a gay Mexican-American woman, whose served her country and continues to serve her community, I'm shocked and heartbroken," Bridges wrote.

The Christian Post has not been able to confirm the officer's identity, but pictures on her social media page bear a resemblance to news photos of Illinois State Police Trooper Johanna Rivera. Illinois State Police didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on the Facebook post. 

The officer said she was "embarrassed and heartbroken" by how she was treated. "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," she wrote.

The Christian Post reached out to Pilsen Community Books and the Jo Riv Bridges Facebook account for comments on the post. Responses are pending.

PCB said on Twitter the day after the Facebook post was issued that its policy is to keep "a police-free store."

"Fighting for a world where everyone is free is more than a cheeky t shirt, a slogan or a few well-timed tweets; to us, it means fostering a space where the most vulnerable feel welcome and safe," the store's May 18 post stated. 

After identifying "young organizers," teachers and parents as how PCB defines community, the post continued: "THESE people are our community, and these people are always welcome."

"In the interest of fostering a safe space for all of these people, whenever possible, we aim to keep PCB a police-free store," the tweet asserts. 

A picture of several books with titles indicating a desire to abolish the police accompanied the Twitter thread. 

The store also partners with "Liberation Library," an effort to provide books to incarcerated youth in Illinois and ultimately "fight for a world where prisons no longer exist," according to the PCB website.

While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly prohibits businesses from refusing service to patrons based on race, color, religion or national origin, refusing service strictly based on one's profession is unlikely to reach the threshold of discrimination.

But for Bridges, this visit to PCB was likely her last. After expressing disappointment about the treatment she received from "My beloved Pilsen, my home, my barrio where I lived for 7 years and still own a home there," she vowed to "never go there again." 

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