THE POLICE have launched an arson investigation after the Freedom Press Anarchist bookshop in Whitechapel in London’s East End was firebombed at about 5.30am on Friday 1st February.
Fortunately no one was on the premises at the time and there were no casualties. But around 500 books were completely burned and thousands more partially damaged by both smoke and water from the fire-hoses used to extinguish the flames.
The electrical wiring was completely damaged but the first floor is reported to be OK. Unfortunately the shop was not insured.
The shop suffered a previous arson attack in 1993 at the height of a campaign of bombings and violence carried out by the notorious neo-Nazi thugs of Combat 18.
And the people of Freedom Press again suspect a far-right motive behind this.
Andy Meinke, who is one of the bookshop’s “coordinators”, said staff believe the culprits are likely to have been members of far right groups such as the English Defence League or the British National Party.
“No-one’s claiming responsibility for it yet, but we’ve obviously got radical politics and have campaigned against groups like the EDL in the past”, he said.
Hundreds of people turned out over the weekend to help with the clean-up operation. “We spent the weekend having a massive clean-up”, Meinke said.
“A lot of people came who we didn’t even recognise after word spread on the internet.”
Gerry Gable, the editor of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight said: “The latest attack comes at a time when we are seeing a new growth of small groups of hard-line Nazi thugs on the extreme edges of the British far right, often consisting of men and women of violence who are deserting the failing English Defence League together with sleeping tigers from old established groups such as British Movement and the Racial Volunteer Force.”
He added: “It is likely that the far right would associate Freedom Books with the growing numbers of young activists, many of them anarchists, who have confronted the EDL on the streets in various parts of the country. The attack might well reflect frustration rather than organisation, as many of the thugs from the far-right splinter groups are now being convicted of arson attacks on mosques, violence against trade union meetings and other crimes.
“The anti-fascist movement must remain alert without getting caught up in gossip mills.”
The Freedom Bookshop stocks thousands of left-wing newspapers and pamphlets and acts as a host to campaigns like the London Coalition Against Poverty. It was founded in 1886 by Charlotte and Peter Kropotkin and opened at its present site in Whitechapel in 1969.
The shop has now re-opened.