A group of about two dozen neo-Nazis attempted to disrupt a reading circle at Red Ink Community Library on Feb. 21 in the Mount Hope neighborhood of Providence, R.I., leaving one person with a bloody lip. The community space was holding a small public gathering to celebrate “Red Books Day,” which is recognized around the world to celebrate the anniversary of the publication of the Communist Manifesto.
The Red Ink Library is in a working-class area of Providence. Community members submitted French, German, Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish, Georgian, Spanish, Hindi, Punjabi, and Odia recordings of sections of the Manifesto to share with each other. There were several Party for Socialism and Liberation and Democratic Socialists of America members, and other community members present in the audience.
About half way through the event, the neo-Nazi mob made their appearance. They banged on the glass window of the library and blocked the entrance. They shouted slurs in an attempt to intimidate the readers and provoke a fight.
The neo-Nazis held a flag with a swastika and a skull, and wore face coverings that were not meant for the pandemic, just to hide their faces. They wore brown khaki pants and black shirts. Many of them performed repeated Nazi salutes and shouted out the number 131, referring to the Rhode Island chapter of the neo-Nazi gang the Nationalist Social Club.
When one of the event hosts went to the door and told them to leave, the neo-Nazis assaulted the person and left them with a bloody lip.
Half a dozen neighbors of the library came out of their homes and shouted back at the neo-Nazis, who retreated and dispersed after only 15 minutes. The event organizers did not call the police, but the police did arrive, spoke casually with the remaining neo-Nazis and did not make any arrests.
“It was great to hear our neighbors yelling ‘you don’t live here, we don’t want you here, get out,’ and that’s what we need,” said Jordan, a PSL member who was at the reading. “We need to organize with our neighborhoods so when paramilitary white supremacists — who are really agents of the ruling class, the rich, in the same way the cops are — when they show up, we can kick them out. It starts with organizing. When we’re organized and know who our enemies are, we can show our power.”
“It was scary at first,” Jordan added. “There was eight of us and maybe 20 of them, but we weren’t just us eight. The neighborhood was there.”
The reading continued despite the attempted disruption. The organizer who took the punch concluded with the last line of the Manifesto, “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of the world, unite!” A lively discussion followed after.
This is the first time this neo-Nazi group attempted to disrupt an event openly using Nazi insignia and violence in a working class neighborhood of Providence. Jair, an attendee at the reading, told Liberation News:
“They claim the streets are theirs, but we’ve been around during the Ferguson protests, the George Floyd protests. The streets belong firmly to the people, not the fascists. And it’s in those streets, not in debate, where they will fall.”
In response, Red Ink Community Library will hold a Collective Safety Forum online next Saturday to create a safety plan in collaboration with the surrounding community.