Threats Against Leftist Bookstore Go Beyond Free Expression
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK—Revolution Books and its employees must be free to operate without fear for their safety, PEN America said in a statement today.
Revolution Books in Berkeley, an independent bookstore that is affiliated with the Revolutionary Communist Party, a political party within the United States, and that specializes in selling books from a leftist political standpoint, has been the target of a sustained protest campaign by right-wing activists for the past several months. This campaign has at points flared into threats and violence.
Most recently, on March 3, a group of right-wing activists protested the store. During a verbal altercation caught on video, one protester exclaimed “We’re gonna burn down your bookstore, you know that right?” In a previous protest, captured on videotape, a person protesting the bookstore elbowed a bookstore supporter in the face. In recent months, Revolution Books employees have also reportedly been “doxed” (their personal information shared online without their consent) and received threatening phone calls.
“Political disagreements are one thing. Threatening to burn down a bookstore is another, and is unacceptable,” said Summer Lopez, Senior Director of Free Expression at PEN America. “While protests and calls to boycott are of course free and protected speech, that is no excuse for threats, violence, or sustained harassment. Now more than ever, we need to recognize and cherish the right of bookstores to offer books with diverse points of view from across the political spectrum.”
The protests against the store reportedly began in September 2017, when—after a visit from right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos to University of California, Berkeley resulted in protests against his speech—a group of 30 to 40 people stormed Revolution Books and confronted shoppers.
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org
Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator: [email protected]