The Freedom Press bookshop in Whitechapel was firebombed in the early hours of last Friday morning. The ground floor of the premises of the anarchist publisher, founded in 1886 by Charlotte Wilson and Peter Kropotkin, appeared to be in for a long, costly refurbishment. There was an emergency meeting in a nearby pub, and a clean-up scheduled for the next day.
When I got there on Saturday afternoon the place was already full of volunteers: I thought over a 100; some suggested 60; in any case, more than could easily fit in. Still, there was plenty to do, and not just for the people in overalls and masks trying to resurrect the electrics. The ground floor was filled with smoke; upstairs, where the saved stuff was being transferred, conditions were less hazardous.
When I went back yesterday they were repainting downstairs. The atmosphere upstairs was more sober than at the weekend, and volunteers were no longer queuing to get in, but it was still busy. I was asked to sort through a pile of Donald Rooum’s Wildcat comics, including Anarchists against Bombs, which survived the fire in impressive numbers. I asked the manager, Andy Meinke, if he’d heard any news from the police. He said not. A voice came from the toilet: ‘The internet says it’s a white male in his twenties.’ The online community’s verdict is that the attackers were ‘some fascists’. One of the few titles back on sale – the shop reopened on Monday – is Beating the Fascists by Sean Birchall; another is Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid.
The bookshop’s insurance expired shortly before the attack, but a fund has been set up for people to contribute towards the cost of the repairs. There’s a donation box in the alley outside the shop, on a stall with singed memorabilia. The clean-up sessions continue; there’s another at 1 p.m. tomorrow. There’s more information about these and other ways to help on the Freedom Press website.