Civil Rights

Nazis interrupt book reading in Providence: First they came for the socialists…

Video taken of the Nazis from inside the library and posted on Twitter show a clearly visible Nazi flag.
Photo for Nazis interrupt book reading in Providence: First they came for the socialists…

Published on February 22, 2022
By Steve Ahlquist

In Providence on Sunday an event to mark the 174th anniversary of the publication of the The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels was underway at Red Ink Community Library when a number of self-identified Nazis, holding a red swastika flag, began banging on the windows screaming obscenities.

Due to the publication of The Communist Manifesto, February 21 is celebrated internationally as Red Books Day and the Nazis apparently came in response to this event which was advertised on Facebook. Video from both inside and outside Red Ink Library shows nearly two dozen Nazis wearing masks to hide their faces.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza made the following statement:

Providence is home to diverse people, cultures, and ideas and our city has no room for hate-filled actions meant to intimidate and cause fear. My administration is committed to making every resident feel safe and protecting the rights of people who are gathering peacefully. Anyone with information regarding the incident last night involving a swastika flag is encouraged to contact our police department.

Update: Uprise RI has the Providence Police Department report from the incident last night:

On Monday February 21st 2022 at approximately 18:40 hours, District 8 and 9 received information and were advised a group of Neo Nazis were proceeding to the Red Ink Community Library (130 Camp Street) to interrupt the individuals who were inside attending a reading. 

At 1845 the District 8/9 cars proceeded to 130 Camp Street. While responding dispatch advised police they were receiving calls for an active disturbance. Upon arrival we observed approximately 15-20 subjects (from the Neo Nazi group) standing outside and striking the front window of the Red Ink Community Library with their hands. As soon as all of the District 8 and 9 cars arrived on scene with the overhead emergency lights on, the Neo Nazi crowd began to disperse. Moments later the crowd of subjects walked to their vehicles parked on adjacent streets and left the area. Police did not observe any damage to the building. 

Car-282 (Ptlm. Lugo) remained on scene until 2015 hours to ensure no further disturbances. 

Sergeant Groot was on scene. 

Body Worn camera was activated.

During the last few minutes of the reading, as can be seen on the Facebook livestream, one can hear the Nazis chanting, rattling the windows and screaming obscenities.

“You commie piece of shit!” shouted one Nazi. “You fucking commie piece of shit! Commie Scum! Shut your goddamn mouth you fucking whore! Commie Scum off our streets!”

Video taken of the Nazis from inside the library and posted on Twitter show a clearly visible Nazi flag.

Neighbors alerted the police. After a short time six Providence Police Department vehicles arrived and the Nazis dispersed. See here.

The Black Lives Matter RI PAC responded in a statement:

“There is no greater threat to Rhode Island than nazism and white supremacy. Yesterday evening, an organized group of Neo-Nazis that have established themselves throughout Rhode Island terrorized Red Ink Community Library in Providence Ward 3. “

Candidates for Providence City Council Ward 3 have responded to the event:

“I’m saddened and disgusted to learn about the events that took place on Camp Street last night,” said Bradly VanDerStad. “Our city is better than this. Domestic terrorists have no place in Providence.”

Bill Bartholomew did an excellent interview:

Ward 3 Democratic Committee

We, the Ward 3 Democratic Committee, are extremely disturbed that a group of self-identified Nazis, holding a red swastika flag, banged on the windows and screamed obscenities outside of the Red Ink Community Library at 130 Camp Street in the Mt. Hope neighborhood on Monday, February 21, 2022. We condemn the intentions and the actions of this group of Neo-Nazis in no uncertain terms; such hate-filled and intimidating behavior is unacceptable in our community. One of the wonderful aspects of Ward 3 is the variety of ideas and diversity of cultures represented within it. We stand with everyone who embraces acceptance, civil rights, and love over the fomenting and agitation of fear, white supremacy, racism, hate, and violence.

Never Again Rhode Island stands in solidarity with the Red Ink Community Library and residents of Mount Hope

“We spent Sunday afternoon rallying outside an I.C.E. processing facility under construction in Warwick to call attention to America’s cruel immigration policies, and the culture of othering and dehumanization that leads to genocide like the Holocaust. Then on Monday night, ideological remnants of the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany attacked a leftist library in the heart of our community. When we say Never Again is Now, we mean now––the forces of white supremacy and antisemitism will remain until we defeat them.

“Martin Niëmoller’s infamous 1946 confession begins with, ‘First they came for the Communists/And I did not speak out/Because I was not a Communist.’ We know how his story ends, and the lesson within it is clear––all of us must speak out, before there is no one left. 

ICE is cloaking its brutality in bureaucracy, but last night we saw the cruelty and malice of this ideology on full display. Their processing facility is just one stop on the road to camps, to deportation, to disappearing from one’s home. It is a necessary mechanism in the machine of genocide. The machine doesn’t stop, will not stop, until every component is dismantled.

These struggles are all connected. The same hate group that targeted and harassed our comrades at Red Ink Library last night have also advocated calling ICE to target and abduct immigrants, in addition to taking hateful action against socialists and Jews.

Please join our allies and Mount Hope community members tomorrow afternoon at Billy Taylor Park on Camp Street at 4pm to stand up against the hatred and bigotry that is the fuel for this machine of genocide.

You can also donate to Red Ink Community Library.

“In solidarity, Never Again Rhode Island

Congressman David N. Cicilline (RI-01) released the following statement:

“I am absolutely sickened by the image of a swastika waving in the streets of Providence. Hate groups like neo-Nazis and white supremacists have no place in our city,” said Congressman Cicilline. “Groups like these and the hatred they spew have too often led to terrible violence. The rise of neo-Nazis, white supremacy, and antisemitism in our country is not something we can afford to ignore.  This hatred and last night’s attack are a scourge on our community, and we must all condemn it in the strongest terms.”

This group of Nazis may be the Rhode Island chapter of NSC-131, the same group that has been holding banner drops on highway overpasses from north of Boston to at least as south as Cranston Rhode Island. More information on NSC here.

Note: After this story went to press, Uprise RI received an email taking [minor] fault with the title, which includes a line from Martin Niemöller’s “First they Came for the Socialists.”

“The poem that many know as beginning with ‘First they came for the socialists,’ did not begin that way. It really started with ‘First they came for the communists.’

“Our red-baiting American leaders in the mid-20th century, who wanted to paint Communists as never-a-victim-always-a-terror changed the poem to make it a more palatable one to our McCarthyist society at the time, focusing just on Socialists, erasing the fact that Communists were killed by the Nazis for their views as well. For Communists to ever be victims was unacceptable, even if it was historically true.

“I apologize for going on at such great length, but just wanted to send this your way in case it is relevant to any follow-up articles. People still like to play this whole “Socialism I don’t like, but it’s okay, but COMMunism, that’s gotta be out of bounds” game, and my hope is that all of us together can fight back against that.

“Here’s an article (a bit lengthy, unfortunately) that explores this editorial choice, and the anti-communist reasons behind it.”

Uprise RI has made an Access to Public Records Request to the City of Providence for the police body cam footage.

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