Apart from a few notable exceptions, there’s been an indefensible level of silence about the firebombing of Freedom Bookshop on Friday morning. Only one TV channel, Press TV, bothered to send a camera crew to East London. ITV, the Evening Standard and the Guardian did write stories about it, even if the latter did use the bizarre phrase about the shop that “[i]t claims to stock thousands of books, newspapers, pamphlets…” It’s a bookshop, what exactly makes a statement of easily verifiable fact a claim?
The fact that the story was picked up by the Associate Press meant the story was auto-syndicated around the world (e.g. the Washington Post), but, apart from those, there’s been little else in the mainstream media. No BBC London, no Channel 4 News, no Mirror – let alone any of the conservative newspapers.
Since when is the deliberate targeting of a bookshop not news? Imagine if it had been a branch of Waterstones (there are still a few around). I have no doubt crews would have been all over it and it would have made news bulletins and every newspaper. The only explanation for the lack of coverage of the attack on Freedom is blatant politics.
It would seem that because Freedom is an anarchist bookshop, it doesn’t count. No, most of the mainstream media is only interested in anarchists when they can print groundless allegations that we’re planning to wreck royal weddings or the Olympics.
I went down to the shop on Saturday and saw real anarchism in action – around 100 people turned up to wipe down soot-covered books, clean floors and scrub walls. Not just anarchists, but friends and fellow travellers all ready to help out to get the shop up and running again. Not for pay, not because someone told us to, no – because we wanted to, because solidarity is important and Freedom needs to exist.
Freedom Press, founded in 1886, is one of the last reminders of a different time in London’s East End, a time when people like Peter Kropotkin, Errico Malatesta and Rudolf Rocker walked the streets of the East End. A time when Jewish trade unions rose up and struck to end the sweat shop system that blighted their lives. A time when revolution was in the air and people were willing to fight for a better world.
As the Tories and their sell-out Lib Dem colleagues strip workers of their rights and condemn the less well off in society to food banks and poverty, it’s a time we should all remember. It’s also a time we should start emulating.
Unfortunately, Freedom’s recent financial woes meant the shop was uninsured at the time of the attack, so they need funds to continue. Lots of fund-raising efforts are underway, check out the Freedom website for details.