While almost every indie bookstore in Minneapolis has been touched by protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a police officer just over a week ago, local publishers have been affected as well—though none so dramatically as Lerner Publishing Group. LPG’s headquarters are in downtown Minneapolis; its offices are in the trendy North Loop area, while its warehouse is about a mile north of that office.
The family-owned company is housed in a historic brick building around the corner from the Minneapolis Central Library, which has had windows smashed and its exterior graffitied. The city government center is down the street and has also been vandalized. In response to these incidents occurring in such close proximity to LPG’s offices as well as the ongoing turmoil, about 75 office employees are working from home and the building has been boarded up. Staff will continue working remotely, as they have been doing since March—not just because of the current civil unrest, but also due to the pandemic.
While approximately 20 warehouse employees were sent home early Friday due to safety concerns when violence erupted on Broadway, a major artery four blocks from the warehouse, Lerner CEO and publisher Adam Lerner said that they were back at work Monday and today.
“We’re taking precautions and we are very concerned about our warehouse employees and operations, but we are shipping,” Lerner said. “The safety of our employees is the most important thing.”
During his interview with PW, Lerner had some sharp words about the Minneapolis Police Department, as he spoke of his anger and frustration over Floyd’s murder. Disclosing that LPG has been burglarized in the past, and describing the MPD as unresponsive, Lerner added, “We’ve had to protect ourselves from crime. The MPD doesn’t seem to be committed to the community. I hope some good comes out of this.”
Despite his criticisms of the police, Lerner has no intention to pull his company out of Minneapolis, noting that his family has done business in the North Loop area for almost 90 years. His grandfather owned a grocery store in that neighborhood, and his father launched LPG 61 years ago in a nearby office building.
“We’ve always been in this neighborhood,” Lerner said. “We’ve seen it change. Now it’s the Tribeca of Minneapolis. We’re never going to leave here.”
Protests on Streets and Pages
It is only fitting that even as waves of civil unrest radiate outward from Minneapolis, LPG is rushing to publish a children’s book that might interest some of those participating in these acts of civil disobedience. Into the Streets: A Young Person’s Visual History of Protest in the United States by San Francisco-based activist Marke Bieschke will be released on July 7. Its original pub date was May 5, but it, like so many other books, was pushed back to fall in response to the pandemic shutting down the nation. Now it has been moved back up.
The first print run in hardcover and paper editions is 20,000 copies total. The book concludes with Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg’s advocacy for climate change, as well as a guide for those wanting to know how to effectively protest.
Lerner said that he personally made the decision to push the pub date forward, despite so many bookstores doing business on a restricted basis, as well as schools being closed. “It’s very topical,” he said. “It’s a very important book because it explains that protests don’t happen in a vacuum; they can lead to change, either positive or negative change. And people need to read about their right in our civil society to protest, especially when they see something wrong, like George Floyd’s murder.”
Lerner disclosed that while the first edition of Into the Streets has already been printed, a foreword will be added to the next print run of copies, “about George Floyd and what’s been happening in Minneapolis.” That foreword is still being drafted.
“It really hits home for us, being that we’re at the epicenter of these protests and riots,” Lerner said.