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Group interrupts book reading in Providence with Nazi imagery

The Red Ink Community Library is a nonprofit located in Providence’s Mt. Hope neighborhood. (Nina Sparling/The Public's Radio)
The Red Ink Community Library is a nonprofit located in Providence’s Mt. Hope neighborhood. (Nina Sparling/The Public's Radio)

A crowd wearing masks, chanting slogans and holding a flag with a swastika and other Nazi imagery interrupted a book reading in Providence on Monday, according to video posted to Twitter and Facebook.

The Red Ink Community Library — a nonprofit library, reading room and organizing space in Providence’s Mt. Hope neighborhood — said the group interrupted an event celebrating the 174th anniversary of the publishing of "The Communist Manifesto."

“Suddenly we heard a loud banging on the windows and some shouting coming from the street,” said David Raileanu, the director of Red Ink Community Library. “There was definitely a sense that we were not safe.”

When police arrived, officers found roughly 15-20 people allegedly “from the Neo Nazi group” gathered outside the storefront and “striking the front window of the Red Ink Community Library with their hands,” according to a police report of the incident. The group dispersed as police arrived with lights flashing, according to the report, retreating to their cars and driving away. Police did not find any damage to the building.

Video posted to Twitter by user @guateguanaco shows people holding a flag with Nazi symbols against the store’s front windows and yelling threats and obscenities. The crowd chants “Commie scum, off our streets.”

“As a socialist, it was difficult,” Raileanu said. “As a person of Jewish ancestry, it was brutal. It was very, very difficult.”

The Red Ink Community Library is registered as a nonprofit organization, according to documents filed with the Rhode Island Secretary of State. It describes itself as “a safe space for people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and sexual orientations” and “aims to become a nexus of radical and revolutionary thought.”

Raileanu said the organization is in the midst of conversations about how to respond to Monday night’s events.

“While we don't want to take responsibility for the actions of some violent thugs, we do acknowledge that there are ways that we can minimize the risk in the future,” Raileanu said.

The organization wants to avoid putting its membership, and the surrounding community, at risk. Exactly what that looks like is an ongoing conversation, Raileanu said, but could include scheduling events during the day, meeting in larger groups, and more.

The book reading was organized as part of Red Books Day, an international celebration of leftist books and publications. A Twitter post inviting people to attend Red Ink Community Library’s event promised “solidarity, congeniality, maybe even a little frivolity.”

After the group of alleged neo-Nazis dispersed, Raileanu said the reading continued.

“I'm very proud of the poise and the resilience shown by the members who were gathered here,” he said.

This is a developing story and will be updated. The Public’s Radio’s Jeremy Bernfeld contributed to this story.

This story was originally published by The Public's Radio. The Public’s Radio and WBUR have a partnership in which the news organizations share stories and resources.

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