PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland icon Powell’s Books said Monday it would not place “Unmasked” by Andy Ngo on store shelves, though the anti-antifa book will remain in its online catalog.
The announcement followed calls online for the store to be “picketed.” Despite Powell’s decision to keep the book off its shelves, a small crowd of protesters gathered outside the store’s flagship location on NW 10th Ave. and Burnside St., plastering the windows with signs and prompting the store to close early for the day.
Ngo rose to national prominence as an outspoken critic of antifa, after activists allegedly attacked him for documenting a milkshake-themed protest in Portland in 2019. His articles and posts showing street brawling and riots here and nationally have gained him conservative fans and far left enemies.
His book “Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy” is slated for release in February.
Twitter backlash appeared to start Sunday, and gained steam Monday morning, with users complaining Powell’s was “propagating racism and right-wing ideology” and supporting a “fascist gravy train book for a nazi-collaborating Portlander.”
Powell’s announced before noon Monday that Ngo’s book would not be placed on shelves, but would be available in the online catalogue.
“We carry a lot of books we find abhorrent, as well as those that we treasure,” read a tweet from Powell’s Books. “We believe it is the work of bookselling to do so.”
We believe it is the work of bookselling to do so. Please see our full commitment to free speech here: https://t.co/pqnaVE6D2W (3 of 3)— Powell’s Books (@Powells) January 11, 2021
Powell’s posted a longer statement on its website, defending the company’s commitment to free speech.
Unhappy that the book would still be available online, crowds gathered outside the store’s Pearl District location. In the background of one video, someone can be heard yelling, “We will shut down this store every day. You will lose money every day. Every day that you sell his book, we will shut down this store.”
The store is EMPTY.— Everything Andy Ngo says is a lie (@it_aint_pretty_) January 11, 2021
A former employee has told me that the Powell’s fired an employee that had been doxed by Andy
As well, Powell’s headquarters is only a half a block away #PDXProtests pic.twitter.com/lvXJzLSgi4
A spokesperson for Powell’s told KOIN 6 News Monday evening that the store closed early “as a safety precaution and will remain closed the rest of the day.” They said they didn’t have any additional statement but were “monitoring the situation.”
Ngo provided KOIN 6 News with a statement, writing, “Given that Powell’s dedicates part of every year to banned and censored books, it’s a shame they’ve made the decision to restrict in-store sales of a book by a local author weeks ahead of release. However, I also have sympathy for them given how ruthless Antifa have been in vandalizing and hurting local businesses.”
Update: A public relations representative for Powell’s told KOIN 6 News on Wednesday that the store had never planned to have the book on its shelves.