Friday, May 9, 2014

Almost Arrested for Selling Poetry Books...but a BIGGER Crime Was Committed, and the Perp Got Away Free.

Here's the scene of the crime: the RTA station at West 117th and Madison in Lakewood, Ohio, on Cleveland's west side, in broad daylight, between 11 AM and 11:30 AM.
It all started with a poetry book, Mosaic by Ohioan Margie Shaheed, published by NightBallet Press in June, 2013.  In the months since NBP published her book, Margie has sold an average of 40 books a month, for a total of well over 500 books.  I have an admittedly hard time keeping up with her demand! 

It was no different this month.  With the Ohioana Book Festival coming up tomorrow (May 10th) in Columbus, Ohio, Margie needed 50 books for her appearance and signing there.  All book sales have to go through Barnes & Noble for Ohioana, but since B&N doesn't carry Mosaic, I needed to physically get the box of books to her.  We arranged to meet midway between our residences, at the RTA station. 

I saw her bus pull up as I turned into the RTA parking lot in my car.  At the same time, she phoned me to say she was there.  I parked at the end of one of the rows and started walking toward her.  She was easy to spot in a dandelion-yellow shirt and headscarf.  I saw her put out her cigarette on the concrete, and she walked toward me.  She couldn't have taken more than a puff or two on the cigarette; there hadn't been enough time for her to do so.

We embraced, and started talking about Ohioana.  I gave her the box of books and she gave me the money she owed me for her last shipment of books.  I wrote her a receipt.  We continued to talk animatedly about Ohioana.

We had been talking for about ten minutes when It Happened.  The RTA cop, who had been sitting in his car in front of the station, swaggered over to us.  Without so much as an "Excuse me, Ma'ams", he aggressively interrupted our conversation, addressing only Margie:  "I KNOW you saw the sign because you were sitting right under it."  Margie said "What?"  He repeated his statement, then he said it was the "No Smoking sign".   Margie tried to say she hadn't immediately seen the sign and that she put out her cigarette as soon as she saw it, but the cop wouldn't allow her to complete a sentence.  He interrupted her and took a very confrontational stance, like she was backtalking him.  She wasn't.  I was right there next to her.  She was polite to him and never raised her voice.  She said she put out the cigarette.  He threatened her with a $250 fine. I couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing.  I wish I had thought to turn on the video on my phone.  He finally blustered and turned on his heel to go.  I thought it was over.

It wasn't.  He turned back to her (mind you, he never once glanced at me or addressed me in any way...but maybe the paleness of my skin made me blend into the background. Yeah.) and once more started in on her: "Do you have a vending license?"  He indicated the box of Mosaic I had just delivered.  "Because you're selling without a vending license!"  She said "I'm not selling anything," and he said "I saw money exchange hands!"  Again, he's being very confrontational and nasty.  Keep in mind that I am the one who "sold" her the books, so he should have been addressing me.  She responded that he was looking for something to get her for, and she was right.  It was escalating fast, and Margie was visibly shaken.  I had tried to stay out of the conversation up to this point, as there was no point in agitating the bully cop any more, but it was time for me to step in.  I pointed out to the cop that I was her publisher and that she was "my star seller, and an important part of tomorrow's "big book festival down in Columbus".  I told him she had owed me the money (true) and that no transactions were taking place on RTA ground.  He then addressed me (in a much nicer tone than he had addressed Margie) that he was "just trying to keep an eye on crime".   Liar.  What he was doing was committing a crime.  He was obviously rousting Margie because of her skin color.  I've heard about things like this happening before, but it's the first time I've actually seen it. 

This is the bully who harassed us at the RTA station. 

I was ready to tell him to go ahead and arrest me for the illegal sale of Mosaic to Margie, but when he saw that I was involved and that we were sticking together in the incident, he backed off and the Perp Who Committed the Crimes of Indecency, Racism, Rudeness, Ignorance, and  Harassment swaggered away, free as a bird. 



Johnny Cashless said...

Book 'em, Dianno!

Mike Finley ~ Big Vanilla said...

This is a very gross story. Presumably, the cop thought he was in some way doing the right thing. You represented something in his head. I hate to think it was just black/white. Suppose he thought you were doing a drug deal, and then got in too deep? The cigarette gave him the right to look into what you were up to -- maybe he hated to waste a free "search."

Dianne Borsenik said...

We were sitting/standing out in the open, in front of the station, laughing and talking animatedly. Our hands were visible at all times. I'm white and Margie is African-American. The cop was white. You do the math.

Vertigo Xi'an Xavier said...

Someone (who I couldn't convince to post this reply herself) commented to me:

If you ever need to see what "white privilege" looks like, this is it. What Dianne calls a case of "Indecency, Racism, Rudeness, Ignorance, and Harassment" meriting a blog post and social media rant was just a "Thursday" for Margie.

My own thought here is: wait, you mean to say you've been doing everything you do with NBP these past few years withOUT a vendor's license? Are you insane?

Anonymous said...

Dianne, this is a true account of what happened to us last Friday. I commend you for speaking the truth.

Anonymous said...

This is Margie Shaheed


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau