Burnt books and cleaning – Freedom Bookshop clean-up report

I fist learned about the Freedom bookshop being firebombed via email. They had heard it either from twitter or facebook. Funny how these things spread so quick these days. People were already complaining that USA outlets were informing about it while there was no coverage at all in UK press, see: Washington Post, International Times, Huffington Post.

Later, reports appeared in the London Evening Standard, and in The Guardian

Those reports define Freedom Bookshop as an anarchist venue, which I guess it is fair enough since that it how its volunteers define the project. However the impression they give is that only anarchist material is sold there. Yes many books are written by anarchists about anarchism, but more than mono-thematic shops, bookshops like Freedom are simply the only option left for writers whose subject matter is not deemed profitable enough for big publishers to spend money on. And when the mainstream publishing doors are shut, so are their distributing channels. Thankfully radical bookshops like Freedom welcome books and pamphlets dealing with human rights abuses so are a very valuable resource to find out about truths not available anywhere else.

There were apparently about 100 people helping out on Saturday; I went on Sunday and I guess in total there were between 50 and 100, between the people who arrived earlier and those who left the last.

The call out was for 1pm, planning to work until 3pm. The first person promptly arrived at about fifteen pat one, and shortly afterwards a group formed big enough to make it worth to explain where things were at. Today the task was to clean the black layer that the smoke had left on the books recovered. There were cleaning products and accessories used by the people helping the previous day that we could still use, when those run out ‘some one’ would need to go out and buy some more.

Recoverable books had been taken upstairs, a room with big enough windows that electricity was not needed for light. People kept arriving to this room throughout the afternoon to the point that more rooms needed to be made available to accommodate more helpers.

At first sight books were piled up randomly. Not so. There were three distinctive groups of books. Of course the biggest one was the books that needed cleaning (which got considerably smaller within an hour). A smaller one, yet respectable, was the ones that had been cleaned the previous day (which of course got bigger).

“The smoke gets off easy from the cover. What about the pages?”
“We don’t spend time on that for now.”
“Can you pass the spray please?”
“Don’t use the white one for cardboard covers. It eats them away.”
“The black stuff doesn’t seem to come off this one.”
“Put it on the that small pile under the window.”

The tiny pile was the books that, in the cleaning process, had been found to be irrecoverable. That is where I saw a copy of my own book.