At the conclusion of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association annual meeting in San Francisco Thursday, Berkeley’s Revolution Books manager Reiko Redmonde spoke to her fellow booksellers about enduring a month-long campaign by a loose coalition of conservative activists who describe themselves as “right-wing media.”
On September 24, conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos made a brief visit to Berkeley, an event that drew police from around the region. That evening, a band of between 30 and 40 right-wing activists stormed Revolution Books. The attackers recorded the episode on video, rattling windows and confronting patrons.
Since the initial incident, these activists have orchestrated at least five more visits to the store—posting their exploits in online videos. In one clip, an activist shouts at the camera: “Wherever you hang out, wherever you spill Communist literature—we’re coming to a f***ing bookstore near you.” In another clip, a protester elbows a bookstore supporter in the face, smashing his glasses. The most recent incident occurred on October 17, when conservative activists assembled and chanted outside Revolution Books after the store closed.
After she shared her story at NCIBA, Redmonde handed out a broadsheet with support from local authors like Ayelet Waldman ("It horrifies me to hear that our beloved Revolution Books was targeted by vicious white supremacists”) and Joyce Carol Oates (“We in the Berkeley community, and throughout the country, are solidly on your side, and applaud your courage, tenacity, and determination.”)
The harassment extends beyond physical confrontations. Right-wing activists also “dox” their targets, sharing opponents’ personal information online. In digital forums, these activists have released contact information for bookstore employees, patrons, and supporters. Revolution Books has received up to 60 calls a day from people mocking or threatening the store. The insults have spread to online review sites as well. “Revolution Books is a Communist Recruitment center trying to brainwash kids to do their dirty work for them,” wrote one Yelp reviewer.
When asked if the campaign could shutter the bookstore, manager Redmonde responded, “Hell no! We’re not going anywhere. We are needed now more than ever.” On October 14, the bookstore hosted a fundraiser; its headline was “Support Revolution Books Against Fascist Attacks and Threats.” The store now prominently stocks history titles about white supremacy and the rise of fascism in Italy, Germany, and Latin America.
For other booksellers who might face a similar kind of intimidation campaign, Redmonde had this advice: “We are there. We’ve got your back. We’ll go to your bookstore and stand in front of it. And everyone else in your town should do the same.”