Skip to comments.Cops: Sorry about the gorilla
Posted on 11/26/2003 6:02:27 AM PST by stainlessbanner
Robert Fowlkes' toy gorilla went for a ride on the front of a Portland police car last week -- prompting cries of racism from local hip-hop fans, an investigation by the police bureau and an apology from the officers involved.
Fowlkes, who lives at the Helen Swindells Apartments at 10 N.W. Broadway, said Monday that the misadventure began when he and his toy -- called Monkey Boy -- went to a Burnside bar late Monday evening, Nov. 17.
Fowlkes acknowledges getting drunk. He was picked up by two police officers, who stuck the toy behind the front bumper guard on their patrol car. They later told Police Chief Derrick Foxworth that the toy smelled like urine and vomit, and they didn't want it in the car.
"They said it smelled bad, but that's not true. To me it only smells like cigarettes," Fowlkes said.
According to Foxworth, the officers dropped Fowlkes off at the Hooper Detoxification Center at 20 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. They intended to return the stuffed animal to Fowlkes' apartment, Foxworth said, but first they got a call of a disturbance at Ringlers, a restaurant and club at 1332 W. Burnside St.
At the time -- around 1 a.m. -- Ringlers was crammed with a largely black crowd enjoying the weekly hip-hop show hosted by DJ Mello Cee. When officers parked the car out front, many patrons were offended by what they took as racial harassment -- Fowlkes' toy primate.
When Beaverton resident Calvin Washington saw Monkey Boy, he went outside with his cell-phone camera and took several pictures of it. As first reported on the Portland Tribune's Web site on Saturday, these pictures have circulated within the city's hip-hop community over the past week as proof of police racism.
"This is the kind of thing you expect to see in the South, like a Confederate flag," said DJ Mello Cee, who was hosting the event. "They might as well paint their faces black with white lips."
Foxworth ordered a police investigation into the incident over the weekend, and, he said, the two officers came to him Monday morning with their version of the events.
"They were very apologetic and sorry about how it had been seen," said Foxworth, who declined to release the officers' names until the investigation is complete. Foxworth said police want to interview witnesses at Ringlers before closing their investigation.
Fowlkes said Monday he was unaware of the commotion caused by Monkey Boy until he started getting calls from the media. He was just happy to find it home when he returned.
"I walked into my apartment, and there he was, like he was waiting for me," Fowlkes said.
Not intended to offend
Although Foxworth said the officers insisted they did not intend to offend anyone, they acknowledged that some people complained to them that the gorilla was racial harassment.
"They said that several patrons came out and told them they were offended by it, and they explained they did not mean it that way," Foxworth said.
Ringlers' manager, Clive Fulkerson, said the officers offered club security guards another explanation of the incident, however.
"They (the officers) said they had just come from a toy drive or something like that," Fulkerson said.
Mello Cee also said he thinks the incident was less than an innocent misunderstanding, saying he saw an officer straighten out the toy after the car stopped outside the club.
"It was kind of slumped over when I first saw it. Then an officer walked over and pulled its arms up and straightened it up," he said.
Washington took four photos outside Ringlers that have been obtained by the Portland Tribune. Two show the animal behind the bumper guard. Others show an unidentified white Portland police officer standing in front of a car and a legible identification number -- given to the police Saturday by the Tribune -- of the car that Washington said had the gorilla.
Mello Cee said he also went outside and took pictures with a cell-phone camera. He said when he went back inside Ringlers to change records, the police car drove off. He said the crowd had become angry.
"People ran up to me and said, 'What are we going to do?' And I was like, 'It's the police. What can we do?' " he said.
A Monday happening
The disc jockey has hosted the Mellow Monday hip-hip show at Ringlers for nearly two years. "It's the loudest Monday night between here and Seattle," he said.
Mello Cee said police frequently park in front of Ringlers during the event. He said he considers it a form of harassment.
"Police come by all the time. This is the only thing going on Mondays, and it's a large gathering of black people," he said.
Fulkerson said the event has become increasingly popular in recent months, sometimes attracting Portland Trail Blazer and other NBA players. He said police have started coming by, occasionally parking outside and walking through the inside crowd.
"Police have been making a show of their presence, both inside and outside. Whether that's harassment, I can't say," Fulkerson said.
Mello Cee said Portland police have a history of harassing clubs that draw black customers.
That's not the case, said Sgt. Neil Crannell of the Portland Police Bureau's gang enforcement team.
"It's not that we're watching them more closely," Crannell said during an interview last December. "But we do have to go there whenever we're called to pick up the pieces. ... We've had a number of shootings in hip-hop situations. Some of the people drawn to those events are gang members."
Several people said the incident reminded them of another in 1981 when Portland police threw dead possums outside a black-owned restaurant.
Foxworth said he has asked Richard Rosenthal, director of the Independent Police Review Division of the city auditor's office, to also investigate the incident.
Rosenthal's office was created by the City Council to accept and review citizen complaints of police wrongdoing. Complaints that are deemed to have merit are forwarded to the bureau's Internal Affairs Division for investigation and resolution.
Rosenthal said no one had filed a formal complaint by Monday morning and urged anyone who witnessed it to call, 503-823-0416.
Huh?? How is this racism?
Demorats filibuster black and hispanic judges BECAUSE they are black and hispanic and NONE dare call it racism.
What a world!
You ain't kidding :(
Maybe it is time for a style update in that community. Perhaps we should send in the "What not to Wear" crew from TLC.
Why would these people think they themselves are gorillas?
Robert Fowlkes' toy gorilla went for a ride on the front of a Portland police car last week -- prompting cries of racism from local hip-hop fans, an investigation by the police bureau and an apology from the officers involved.So is "hip-hop fan" the new PC term for some race? Or have "hip-hop fans" intermingled and interbred long enough that they have branched off and become a whole new race? Kind of confusing stuff.
Being a professional victim is hard work. You can't just go along the whole day only seing actual threats. You have to make them up constantly.
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