Index on Censorship is sending political party UKIP a bundle of books, including The Handmaid's Tale and a copy of the Quran, in the hope it will forward them on to those of its members involved in Saturday's attack on Bookmarks bookshop.
In a post on its website, the freedom of expression organisation said it was sending a selection of the books that it has been featuring ahead of next month’s Banned Books Week to UKIP because it believes "reading broadens the mind and helps to create a more tolerant and inclusive society". It further told The Bookseller it thought the books "might help them understand why their actions only end up limiting their own freedom".
Other books being sent to UKIP include The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, a book burned in the 1933 Nazi bonfires because of Sinclair’s socialist views, and Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple.
"We’re sending them to UKIP, which has suspended the attackers as members, in the hope they will forward these on to them as something to read during their suspension," read Index on Censorship's blog.
The move follows an incident on Saturday (4th August) in which a far-right group of around 12 people stormed a socialist bookshop Bookmarks in central London before proceeding to shove and verbally abuse staff, tear up magazines, and throw books to the ground. One of the two booksellers on duty told The Bookseller fascist slogans were chanted, including nonsensical insults against Islam. They also bellowed at staff, "We hope you burn down". Many were wearing red caps reading "Make Britain Great Again". One wore a Donald Trump mask.
The attempts to intimidate the bookseller were recorded and posted online, prompting an outpouring of support from its authors, customers and the trade. It also led to the suspension of three members of UKIP, Elizabeth Jones, Luke Nash-Jones and Martin Costello, who were believed to have been involved.
However, following an investigation by UKIP, Jones has since been "exonerated" and reinstated into the party, according to UKIP Daily.
UKIP Chairman Tony McIntyre said in a statement: "There is absolutely no evidence at all of Ms Jones having any knowledge of, or involvement in the actions which allegedly took place inside the bookshop.
“Ms Jones just happened to be in the approximate central London area solely because she had attended an unconnected event earlier that Saturday afternoon. I am delighted to absolve Elizabeth totally, and welcome her back in the fold. I only regret we had to suspend her initially, however briefly this has been, due to the false allegations made against her."
Jones responded: "I am deeply grateful to our Chairman Tony McIntyre for expediting his investigation and upholding the truth in his findings in my favour so I can carry on serving UKIP. I have nothing further to say, as this matter had nothing to do with me in the first place."
Index on Censorship has told readers if they would like to help it raise funds to cover the costs of the books it is sending UKIP, or support its work more generally in tackling censorship, they can donate here. It also provided UKIP's address, should others wish to follow suit and "send a bookbasher a book".
A "solidarity event" is due to be hosted by Bookmarks at the shop this Saturday (11th August).
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