Statements of Support for Revolution Books, Berkeley, against Fascist Threat to Burn Down the Bookstore

April 12, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper |



Revolution Books in Berkeley has been the target of fascist assaults 10 times in the last six months. On March 3, 2018, two fascists threatened to burn down the bookstore. The outrageous attack was video-taped and posted on a number of online media sites, and was viewed 2.7 million times on Now This Facebook alone.

Support has poured in from around the country. Below is a new statement from PEN America, as well as earlier statements from bookstores, authors and other prominent individuals in March.


PEN America:

Threats Against Leftist Bookstore Go Beyond Free Expression


April 10, 2018

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.

Originally posted at the PEN America website.


Nation Books

“Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.” 
—Heinrich Heine

We were distressed—but not, unfortunately, surprised—to learn that Revolution Books has been targeted by far-right groups over the last several months. On March 3, fascists threatened to burn down the store.

Here at Nation Books, we are committed to giving voice to under-reported stories and under-represented writers who speak truth to power. We know that these are precisely the ideas that are most feared by far-right groups. Our authors know this, too. In the past year alone, they have been targeted by hate groups and Twitter mobs, and threatened with racist symbols and speech.   

Our authors will not be silenced. But we can’t get our books into the hands of readers without bookstores like Revolution Books. If they are under threat, oracles to knowledge is under threat.            

Don’t let the fascists win.      

Stand strong, Revolution Books, because we stand with you.      

In Solidarity, the Nation Books team


Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Jr. Senior Pastor, Allen Temple Baptist Church      

I am in support of Revolution Books' resistance to the threat of violence from the latest attack on Revolution Books. Under these circumstances, the statement of support that I made in the wake of the initial attack on the bookstore still holds.


David Gunn Jr.

Last weekend I was mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw a Now Hear This video documenting a rabid band of Trump supporters aggressively confronting the volunteer staff of a Revolution Books storefront in Berkeley, CA. As I watched the MAGA crowd’s anger intensify, and as it became evident that their actions were motivated by a combination of fear, political intolerance, nativist hatred, misogynistic oppression, and just plain racist thinking, I was struck by two things: 1) the courage and restraint of the bookstore’s volunteer staff; and 2) the explosive rage of their assailants. I have seen this exact type of intolerance before. It is the exact type of intimidation used by anti-abortion protestors. The absolute hatred it fosters is the same type of uncontrollable rage that led Michael Griffin to murder my father. It is dangerous when unchecked, and it typically ends in real violence and death.

Obviously, these people, motivated and encouraged by the Trump regime and the fear of political dissent it engenders, want to eliminate anything and everyone they see as “other.” They want silence. They crave supplication. They want conformity. Today I stand with the staff of Revolution Books in Berkeley, and the larger anti-Trump resistance, and say fuck no we will not conform, be silent, or prostrate ourselves to Trump or his deranged supporters. We must all stand with these courageous volunteers and say No to the Trump/Pence regime and the MAGA extremists. Failure to resist makes us complicit and it dishonors the volunteers’ courage and sacrifice.

Thank you to the staff of Revolution Books in Berkeley for your dedication. Your refusal to kowtow to extremism and your service to freedom and liberty is beautiful and righteous.

David Gunn Jr. is the son of Dr. David Gunn, the first of several abortion doctors who have been assassinated by anti-abortion extremists.


Peter Coyote:

Hey, everybody. My name is Peter Coyote, and I’ve got a lot of friends at Revolution Books. As a matter of fact, there’s no one I like to argue with better than people at Revolution Books.

And it’s with humor, and it’s fundamental. But, we don’t agree about a lot of stuff. But there’s one thing we do agree about, and that’s the importance of the First Amendment. And no serious, dedicated intellectuals — who operate a wonderful bookstore, by the way — should ever have to receive the vitriol, the cursing, and the direct threats of physical violence that Revolution Books is receiving.

It’s time to stand up and be counted. You don’t have to be a communist, or a socialist, or a liberal Democrat to understand the importance of a politically free and open bookstore, and the necessity of protecting other people’s right to free speech. If this was a fascist bookstore, I’d hold my nose, but I’d be saying the same thing, as long as they’re expressing their opinions in a peaceful and non-aggressive manner, that’s their right under the Constitution. And anyone who denies it, is basically acting in an anti-American fashion—even if they’re wearing a hat that says “Make America Great Again.”

Thanks for everybody who showed up tonight; I’m sorry I can’t make it. But this is not a local Berkeley issue, this is a national issue. With the press itself under attack, facts themselves under attack, we need to get together, help one another.

Thank you so much.


Media Alliance      

Media Alliance is committed to both the free flow of information and the physical and emotional safety of the people of the Bay Area. We believe that it is both possible and necessary to protect freedom of speech while understanding that freedom extends to both the speaker and the audience. We condemn any threat to burn down a bookstore because of fear of the ideas inside or to harass, undermine or intimidate the owners, employees or users of Revolution Books. We also state for the record that hate is not an idea and we reject freedom of speech claims that extend the idea of freedom to statements or actions that impede the freedom of others to live and feel safe in their own community. Your freedom stops at my ability to live and participate in society on an equitable basis, regardless of my race, ethnicity, skin color, immigration status or personal beliefs. The threats to Revolution Books are reprehensible.


Northern California Independent Booksellers Association   

The NCIBA encourages open and peaceful dialogue conducted in an atmosphere of respect and civility concerning ideas and philosophies, especially when it relates to free speech. Bookstores of all stripes are repositories and channels for ideas and must be protected.

 "Light often arises from a collision of opinions, as fire from flint and steel" - Benjamin Franklin, 1760      

Please, let's keep the collision to opinions only, that the light may shine.


From Vegas Tenold, author of Everything You Love Will Burn:

A little more than a year ago I was interviewing Richard Spencer in a coffee shop in DC. He was loudly explaining how, if it were up to him, women would not be encouraged to enter higher education. The table next to us was occupied by a group of young women, one of whom got up and came over. Without letting him speak, she explained to him, patiently, as one would to a child, how he was the last person on earth who should voice an opinion on what women should or shouldn’t do, and that his garbage ideas and opinions were not so much offensive as they were laughable. I watched as the woman reduced the infamous Richard Spencer to a blushing, stuttering boy and when she was done she left him staring into the remains of his tea. We sat there for an awkward five minutes because Spencer said that if he left now, the woman would think she had won. It didn’t matter. He could have sat there for five years. She had completely demolished him without breaking a sweat. When fighting racism, bigotry and hatred, we should never forget that our arguments are much, much better than theirs, and that when they threaten us with violence it is because they know they can’t beat us with words. The way to defeat the far right is with knowledge and opinions loudly voiced. It is by gathering and organizing. It is by creating a movement where everyone involved, particularly women and people of color know how powerful they really are. To do that we need places like Revolution Books. I really wish I could be there today, but I’m so glad that you guys are doing what you are doing, and I’m in awe of your badassery facing these people. See you next time I’m in Berkeley.


Kevin Ryan, Green Apple Books, San Francisco   

We live in troubling times when the centers of our community that function as conduits of discourse come under attack.  When bookstores, libraries, universities and other places that serve the marketplace of ideas are threatened by mobs that would shut down the full spectrum of dialogue, or by a government that would try to stifle dissent, then civil society itself is threatened.   

Green Apple Books stands in solidarity with Revolution Books


From Kathleen Caldwell, A Great Good Place for Books, Oakland:

As an independent bookstore owner I support Revolution Books right to free speech and their right to refuse service to disruptive, ignorant, abusive,  foul-mouthed,  right-wing protesters.

We are living in scary times.

We have a president who has made name-calling, lying and bullying the national norm.

I stand with Revolution Books and hope others join me. 



City Lights Booksellers and Publishers   

All of us at City Lights Books were disturbed to hear of the recent attempts to intimidate and shut down Revolution Books for exercising their First Amendment rights. We stand in solidarity with our fellow booksellers, and with all those who exercise their rights to think freely, publish and advocate for their beliefs. And we stand firmly against those who would try to stifle dissent.


Alexander Akin, Bookseller  

As a fellow bookseller, I prize the freedom to disseminate literature of all sorts - particularly that which challenges the status quo. The threat to burn down a bookstore is a direct assault on the First Amendment. The widely circulated video of the group that threatened Revolution Books reveals a mob mentality almost comical in its stupidity, but no less alarming for its potential consequences. As Heinrich Heine wrote, "Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen" - "Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people."


Bill Petrocelli, Book Passage   

I have just viewed the portion of the video in which a protestor threatened to burn down your bookstore.   I’m appalled. Given the previous threats against your store from what appears to be the same group, this is the type of threat that cannot be ignored. This is the worst kind of attack on free speech, and it is intolerable.  I think you know that other bookstores will be standing with you as you fight these kinds of threats. Please keep us  up to date on anything else that occurs and how we can lend  our voices in support.


Luan Stauss, Laurel Book Store, Oakland   

Book stores are exceptionally important pieces of our shared community and culture.  

Whether you agree with the ideas that a particular store chooses to stock its shelves with or not, an attack on any book store is an attack on free expression and open minds.   

Those who have attacked and threatened Revolution Books are attempting to restrict what others are allowed to read, evaluate, and discuss. That is not the value of the American people.  Rather than choose not to shop there, these people are threatening harm not only the stock and staff of the store, effectively proving that they do not value ideas other than their own. Nor do they value the independent thinking of each member of the community.   

I support the protection and value of Revolution Books and condemn those who threaten their existence.


Chris Doeblin, Book Culture, NYC   

All of us here at The Book Culture stores in New York hope to encourage the staff of Revolution Books, East and West to stand firm for your right to promote and sell books and ideas as you see fit. Shouting down voices that don’t reflect our own point of view is far too acceptable at this political and social moment. Whether left or right or center, all points of view have the right to be held, published, spoken and sold in book form. It is something that all booksellers must stand together to assert to our fellow Americans. Any attack on a bookstore is an act of censure and any censure that is tolerated is an acceptance of a move away from our sacred democratic values and towards a totalitarian state.   

No Censorship! Book stores must be defended!


Danny Caine, Raven Book Store, Lawrence, Kansas   

The answer to discourse is not violence. To threaten a bookstore is to threaten the community it serves, as the best bookstores (like Revolution Books) are defined by the communities they serve. It is never appropriate to threaten to burn down a bookstore. To threaten the printed word with fire is to imitate the most oppressive and violent regimes throughout history. We must avoid that road. To threaten ideas with violence is to undermine the fabric of our society.

Please keep up the good work!


Richard McNeace, Publishers’ Representative, Faherty & Associates   

I appreciate the work that Revolution Books does to educate the public about issues of race and class, and to encourage liberation from oppression.   

I am dismayed that someone who has wrapped themselves in the American flag is not only trying to impinge upon your Constitutional freedom of speech, but is also invoking the Nazi threat of burning books. Thank you for defending the store against them.   

We, in publishing, have to remember that "first they came" for the smallest, the weakest, the least protected. Any bookseller, any publisher, any author, is threatened by what you are facing. Every bookstore - no matter how small or how large - needs to be defended.   In solidarity with you, Richard McNeace


Middle East Children’s Alliance   

The Middle East Children's Alliance stands with Revolution Books in opposing fascism in all its forms. This bookstore has been a critical resource for all those in the Bay Area and beyond who are fighting for a more just world.


Ula Taylor, Chair of African American Studies, UC Berkeley   

Revolution Books is more than a book store!  It's a place that encourages critical thought and transformative love.  We have to support, protect and advocate for Revolution Books! Their struggle is our struggle!


Sahar Delijani, author of Children of the Jacaranda Tree   

An attack on a bookstore is an attack on all of us, on our minds and souls and ideas. It is never to be taken lightly. We applaud the courage of everyone at Revolution Bookstore and stand on your side.


Rafael Jesús González, Poet Laureate of the City of Berkeley   

The fear of books and ideas, especially those defending the rights of the underprivileged (justice), and the suppression of them is a mark of tyranny and has no place in a country that pretends to democracy.


Marc Sapir, retired East Bay primary care and public health physician   

Though not a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, I agree that the far right attacks on Revolution Books are a derivative and dangerous reflection of the fascism that Trump represents.  On the other hand I also think these militant rightists are a sides-show.  The U.S. today has a Cabinet and President bent upon destroying the foundations of social democracy in the U.S.  Concomitantly, the Trump movement is white supremacist (even if some people who still support Trump have yet to notice what he stands for).  Every single person leading an important Cabinet department of government is hell-bent (and put there by Trump) in order to destroy the purpose for which that department was founded and exists.  From Zinke to Pruitt to de Vos et al they are paranoid destroyers who make these "anti-antifas" look like kindergarteners with their baiting and gamesmanship.  The cabinet people are attacking public institutions and rights fought for by public protest and put in place by Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives and centrists alike over the past century. Those who go after Revolution Books have no problem ignoring that fact to ply their lines.  Refuse fascism, RCP and Revolution Books are right to resist the intimidation of these clowns, but I also think it's best not to allow their behaviors to distract from the broader efforts to resist and uproot the fascists currently in power and reverse their devastating impacts on our country.




Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.