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UK bookstore attacked by 'mask-wearing fascists'

Politicians, authors and activists express solidarity with socialist bookstore in central London.

A major socialist shop in the UK capital says it has been targeted by a group of "mask-wearing fascists", in an attack condemned by politicians, authors and activists. 

Bookmarks, which describes itself as Britain's largest socialist bookshop, said the incident took place on Saturday evening just before closing.

"Twelve men invaded the shop ... destroying displays, wrecking books and chanting Alt-right slogans. One was wearing a [US President] Donald Trump mask," the central London store said in a Facebook post.

"They attempted to intimidate staff and customers and to destroy books and materials. Fortunately, no one was hurt. We will not let this happen! Never Again!"  

Earlier that day a far-right protest had taken place in central London against the censorship of conspiracy theory website Infowars. Protesters were reportedly seen carrying placards also held by those who attacked the store.

"Books on Islamophobia were ridiculed and thrown around. They chanted about Muslims and paedophilia, and called us traitors. While not mentioning Tommy Robinson the links are there to see," said a Bookmarks staff member, according to a press release by the Stand Up to Racism campaign group.

Tommy Robinson is a founder of the far-right English Defence League, which has organised protests against Muslim immigrants.

The far-right activists also shouted about Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party and about anti-semitism. They took Abram Leon's "The Jewish Question" off the shelf holding it aloft as proof of the anti-semitism of the left, the press release read. 

The attackers also made threats to return to "show what they can do".

"Luckily no one was hurt this time, but this is a sinister development that indicates the growing confidence of the far right who feel they can attack a bookshop in central London in broad daylight. Attacking a bookshop also exposes their claims to be defenders of free speech as hollow," Michael Bradley, a member of Stand Up to Racism said.

Member of parliaments with the Labour opposition party, as well as many authors, were among those expressing their solidarity with Bookmarks on Sunday.

"Free speech and independent bookshops - under threat in an age where intolerance and Amazon flourish - should be cherished. Utterly despicable..." Huq wrote. 

"The normalisation of far-right politics is already leading to chaos and vandalism on our streets. Fascist thugs attacking bookshops is the logical conclusion to a political movement which rejects facts and experts," said David Lammy, also a Labour MP.

"We need to be vigilant."

"One needn't wonder what coverage Muslims attacking a bookshop would get," wrote Miqdaad Versi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain.

Bookmarks said it will hold a solidarity event on August 11, inviting authors to read and speak at the bookshop.

"Drop in and stand against those who would destroy books," reads their post on Twitter. 

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