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Till the Cops Come Knockin'

By Chuck Sudo on Jul 21, 2007 6:07PM

2007_07_Kops.jpgHaving attended the Printers Ball in the past, we knew that the free-to-all-comers event would attract more than its fair share of people. We also hoped that having Bridgeport's Zhou B Center host this year's model would allow for more accommodation of guests. We had intended to show up as the Zhou B Center is practically in our backyard, but decided to first pay our respects to the recently departed.

Unfortunately, as we were making plans to say our goodbyes and head out, people started streaming in telling us that the Printers Ball had been shut down by the cops. This morning, a recap of the raid made it to our inbox from poet CJ Laity, founder of and the annual Chicago Poetry Festival. Under the New York Post-worthy headline, "Printers Ball Gets Busted," Laity wrote:

There was a DJ spinning music in one room and a performance art exhibit in another. On the second floor a glee club sang songs. The walls of the third floor were filled with art. There were hundreds of people there, all celebrating literature and literacy peacefully. The Lumpen guys could be seen side by side with the Chicago Review guys. Issues of Columbia Poetry Review sat next to issues of In These Times ... (a)nd then like gangbusters a swarm of bulletproof vest wearing police with badges on ropes around their necks like characters pulled straight out of an episode of The Wire stormed into this private art gallery. Without so much as a search warrant or even an explanation, five of them surrounded the DJ and demanded that he turn off Mark Morrison's "Return of the Mack." Issuing uncompromising threats, they forced the DJ to announce over the microphone that without so much as a discussion EVERYONE MUST LEAVE THE PREMISES. Like a scene out of Robocop, police in black bulletproof jumpsuits with CHICAGO POLICE in big white letters across their bodies stood at all the exits and filed the hundreds of literature celebrating citizens out into the night.

It might have been a "poetry paradise", as Laity described it in his story. But the real reason given for the raid, as told to us by editors from MAKE and Another Chicago Magazine who were also at the Ball, was that there were "multiple liquor license violations." From what we were told - and again, all of this is conjecture - there was booze being served on all three floors, when only the main level was licensed for liquor. There were also rumblings of underage drinking at the Ball. The combination is probably what led to the cops shutting it down. Everyone we talked to expressed surprise that the cops came so quickly, as though someone had tipped them to the happenings. When the cops are called to clear the place, they aren't asked to do so nicely. Only to do their job.

Given the other information that Laity failed to report, it is asked that his words be given careful consideration as a matter of opinion. The privately-owned Zhou B Center is open to the public, and the Printers Ball was advertised as a free, all-ages event for weeks leading up to last night (a caveat certain to have interested city officials). Over the years, Laity has used his website not only an engine to promote the happenings in Chicago's thriving poetry community, but as an occasional bully pulpit to spread gossip, wage personal vendettas against people he feels have crossed him, or wage the little territorial battles that soured us on the poetry scene years ago. Bottom line, if there is a grain of truth to any of the reasons the cops came knocking, then they were right to do their job, and the bad apples in this instance were not the cops.

7/22/2K7 UPDATE: First, we want to clarify a few things. It was not our intent to write maliciously of anyone, although looking back at what we wrote of Mr. Laity (aka "chicagopoetry") we can certainly see why he would take umbrage. For that, we offer our apologies to Mr. Laity. What was our intent was to report more than one side to the story, from people at publications that invested serious equity and manpower to planning Printers Ball-themed events leading up to the Ball and its eventual raid by the police. We also wanted to clarify that this was an all-ages, free event shut down for cause, not simply a case of cops raiding "a private art gallery."

The comments to this post have been closed. The increasing vitriol of the comments has left a bitter taste in our mouths and those of the repeat commentators, primary among them Mr. Laity. The opinions expressed by Mr. Laity and the various anonymous commentators serve no one in a positive light and are a violation of the second rule regarding the Gothamist LLC comments policy:

Good comments can disagree with the content in the post, but they never insult the writer of the post, other commenters, Gothamist, other websites, etc.

There once was a time when we would have returned fire to Mr. Laity and others in the comments with equal or greater viciousness. As an editor for the site, we have an obligation to the staff and readers to explain ourselves in a manner befitting reasonable dialogue. The editors and staff of Chicagoist value and respect our readership, and want to keep you coming back as well as bring new readers to the site.