Several right-wing protesters attacked Revolution Books at least three times at its 2444 Durant Ave. location over the course of two days.
Although campus publication the Berkeley Patriot withdrew its support of the four-day “Free Speech Week” event it was co-hosting with controversial conservative author Milo Yiannopoulos, Yiannopoulos still made a brief campus appearance Sunday, gathering a crowd of about 50 supporters and hundreds of protesters. After Yiannopoulos’ talk, about 40 right-wing protesters marched down Telegraph and Durant avenues and surrounded Revolution Books, a well-known local communist bookstore, and began banging on the windows.
The right-wing protesters, many of whom wore “Make America Great Again” hats, allegedly chanted phrases such as, “Die commie scum” and yelled rape threats against store employees and customers, according to several Revolution Books supporters and employees present during the incident. The building’s security officers struggled to remove the protesters from the premises, but police officers intervened and were able to escort protesters away from the building.
“These fascists were yelling very crude things at us,” said Revolution Books manager Reiko Redmonde. “They represent the opposite of what the store is.”
A group of about six right-wing protesters returned to the bookstore Sunday afternoon, refusing to leave when employees asked them to exit the store, as seen in a Youtube video of the incident. Employees pushed protesters, who were yelling “You commies are murderers,” out of the doors. One right-wing protester elbowed a supporter of the store in the face in the midst of the scuffle.
Almira Tanner, a volunteer at the Berkeley Animal Rights Center, said an employee from Revolution Books went to the center, which is in the same building, to ask for help to contain the protesters. About 20 volunteers from the Animal Rights Center stood around the entrance of the bookstore for about 15 minutes until security officers were able to convince the right-wing protesters to leave.
Some of the right-wing protesters livestreamed or filmed the protest. Antonio Foreman — a Trump supporter and member of the Oath Keepers, a far-right anti-government organization — was filmed during the altercation in a livestream.
“That’s how we expose communists in this country,” Foreman said in the video when he left the store. “We go right into their bookstores. We expose them at all costs.”
On Monday, bookstore volunteers saw right-wing protesters announce on a livestream that they would be returning to the store that day, according to Raphael Kadaris, a member of Refuse Fascism and a supporter of Revolution Books. Kadaris said bookstore volunteers and supporters, as well as members of the Animal Rights Center, stood in front of the store to block about seven protesters from entering.
“We held hands and stood in front of (Revolution Books’) business just as a peaceful form of protest, and we remained silent while (the protesters) were shouting rude statements,” said campus junior Cassie King, a volunteer at the Animal Rights Center.
Right-wing protesters yelled insults, but after about 10 minutes, the building’s security officers escorted them away from the store’s entrance, Kadaris said.
BPD spokesperson Officer Byron White said BPD is not pursuing an investigation into these incidents because Revolution Books has not filed an official complaint. Redmonde said Revolution Books hasn’t filed a complaint because the employees “don’t call the cops.”
Redmonde said she felt the protesters attacked the store because the store is “everything the ‘alt-right’ doesn’t like,” referencing the store’s African American history and culture section as an example.
“(The) targeting of Revolution Books brings to mind Nazi book-burning,” Kadaris said. “It’s very ominous.”
Refuse Fascism member Sunsara Taylor, who volunteers at the Revolution Books location in New York and was present at the Berkeley location during the altercations, said the store has received “a flood of hateful phone calls” since the attacks.
Taylor emphasized that the bookstore will not close, despite threats and intimidation.
Redmonde said, however, that the store has also received much support from the community in the face of these incidents. She added that many students have been coming into the store to buy books and that local authors and community members have released statements in support of the store.
“A community is uniting very broadly, not only against these attacks, but against the fascism in the White House,” Redmonde said.
Jason Bouatavanh, an employee at the nearby SoDoI Coffee Tasting House, said he was disappointed in the lack of security presence in the mall in light of UC Berkeley spending $800,000 on security for the now-canceled Free Speech Week. He also said he found it “worrisome” because he was unsure if the right-wing protesters would go to his workplace next.
Revolution Books held an emergency press conference and speakout called “You Will Not Shut Down Revolution Books! Berkeley Will Be A Fascist Free Zone!” on Tuesday evening. Speakers from Refuse Fascism, the Animal Rights Center, the Freedom Socialist Party, Punks for Progress and Copwatch all expressed support for the store in the face of the attacks.
Reverend Aaron, co-founder of Punks for Progress, who was in the store during the attack, began crying at the conference when he recounted the incident.
“I was terrified,” Aaron said at the conference. “I’m traumatized by this experience.”
Staff writer Cade Johnson contributed to this report.