PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Powell’s Books closed its flagship store early for the second day in a row amid protests over its plans to keep a book by Andy Ngo in its online catalogue.
The controversy took off late Sunday and into Monday morning, with some left-wing activists outraged over the fact that the iconic bookstore planned to sell Ngo’s upcoming book “Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy.”
Ngo rose to national prominence as an outspoken critic of antifa, after being attacked while filming a protest in downtown Portland in 2019. No one was ever arrested in the incident, but Ngo has since sued Rose City Antifa and several protesters.
Powell’s announced Monday it would not promote the book or have it on store shelves, but that it would remain available online.
“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.” Powell’s posted a longer statement on its website, defending the company’s commitment to free speech.
Nevertheless, an angry crowd assembled outside the store’s Burnside location in Portland’s Pearl District, attaching signs denouncing Ngo to the windows. The store closed early citing safety concerns. Demonstrators returned to the store again Tuesday, and a spokesperson confirmed to KOIN 6 News that they again closed early.
Ngo told KOIN 6 News he’s disappointed in the store’s decision to restrict sales, but that he understands Powell’s is in a difficult position.
“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,” Ngo wrote. “However, I also have sympathy for them given how ruthless Antifa have been in vandalizing and hurting local businesses.”
The controversy may be good for sales, though. Ngo’s book, slated for release in February, rose to number one on the Amazon best sellers list following the social media furor.
A public relations representative for Powell’s told KOIN 6 News on Wednesday that in fact the store had never planned to have the book on its shelves.