Free speech campaigners have sent books including The Handmaid’s Tale, The Color Purple and the Qur’an to the Ukip members said to have attacked a socialist bookshop in London to “introduce them to different ideas”.
Bookmarks in Bloomsbury was attacked by 12 people – one of whom was wearing a Donald Trump mask – just before it closed on Saturday. The group chanted far-right slogans, knocked over displays, ripped up magazines, and intimidated the two members of staff who were there. Ukip later said that three of its members, Elizabeth Jones, Luke Nash-Jones and Martin Costello had been suspended, pending an investigation into the incident. Jones was later cleared of wrongdoing.
Free-speech campaigners at Index on Censorship said on Thursday that they have sent a copy of the six books, because they “believe reading broadens the mind and helps to create a more tolerant and inclusive society”. The books sent via Ukip also included Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.
“I hope they’ll read them – this is a great collection of books,” said chief executive Jodie Ginsberg. “We hope the books will introduce them to different ideas.”
Each of the books has been banned or challenged in some way in the past. The Jungle was burned on the Nazi bonfires of 1933 because of Sinclair’s socialist views.
“We shouldn’t be shrugging off the fact that in 2018 a bunch of thugs thought it was acceptable to go into a place of words, where no one was threatening violence, to attack the books and to intimidate. There is something really terrifying to me about people still thinking books are so threatening they should be attacked,” said Ginsberg. “Atrocities start with small actions … We mustn’t ignore these small actions, because they can pave the way to much bigger ones. If we don’t call them out and make a fuss about them and say it’s unacceptable, then people feel able to do more.”
Bookmarks has been flooded with support since the attack, and is planning a solidarity event with authors on 11 August.
“We need bookshops now more than ever. Books offer new perspectives, smash taboos and spark debate. [They] are one of the most powerful tools we have in holding power to account, challenging the status quo and giving voice to the silent and silenced. An attack on a bookshop is a direct attack on our fundamental human right to freedom of expression,” said Anna Millward at Index on Censorship, which is also taking part in Banned Books Week UK, an annual week-long celebration of the right to read, at the end of September.
- This article was amended on 9 August 2018, to reflect Jones’s Ukip membership had been reinstated after investigation.