In yet another example of public political resistance, a woman reportedly called former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon a "piece of trash" at a bookstore in Richmond, Virginia, on Saturday. Nick Cooke, the owner of Black Swan Books, then asked the woman to leave, and when she wouldn't, he told her he would call the police, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch. Now, many Twitter users are pissed both at the Black Swan Books owner and a culture that they believe silences dissent.
Cooke told the Times-Dispatch, “Steve Bannon was simply standing, looking at books, minding his own business. I asked her to leave, and she wouldn’t. And I said, ‘I’m going to call the police if you don’t,’ and I went to call the police and she left. And that’s the end of the story.”
The incident comes a few weeks after the Red Hen, a restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, refused to serve Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in part because it has LGBTQ employees, CNN reported. The two incidents are part of a larger discussion about whether confronting political figures in public is an appropriate way to express dissent, and whether refusing service to a political figure is a form of discrimination.
Well, after the news about Bannon, Twitter still seems torn, though most people seem pissed that anyone would protect Bannon, who has spoken out repeatedly in support of the "alt-right," a term also used by white supremacist groups and neo-Nazis, Vanity Fair reported.
Many Oppose The Owner's Decision Because Of *Who* Steve Bannon Is
The Richmond Police Department confirmed to the Times-Dispatch that they did receive a 3:15 p.m. report on Saturday of "someone yelling at a political figure in the bookstore," but that the report was canceled before officers dispatched. Cooke justified his decision using an argument about toleration, according to the Times-Dispatch:
We are a bookshop. Bookshops are all about ideas and tolerating different opinions and not about verbally assaulting somebody, which is what was happening.
One Twitter users responded to Cooke's above quote in their tweet, noting that his logic didn't seem consistent:
Many others noted Bannon's past, when he was the head of Breitbart, a news commentary website that Bannon said is targeted at the "alt-right." Additionally, in March 2016, while speaking to a far-right crowd in France, Bannon said, "Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativist. Wear it as a badge of honor. Because every day, we get stronger and they get weaker," according to USA Today.
Despite those comments, Bannon has made an effort to distance himself from white supremacists, many of whom supported President Donald Trump during his campaign. In a 60 Minutes interview, he said of the neo-Nazis who came out in support of Trump, according to Vanity Fair: "They’re getting off a free ride off Donald Trump. They’re getting a free ride." He also called them a “small,” “vicious group” that “add[s] no value.”
Still, many Twitter users think Bannon's unabashed alignment with the "alt-right," a term used specifically for neo-Nazis, speaks for itself, and thus justifies what the bookstore customer said to him:
Another user drew parallels between the recent news that a man called the police on a Black woman at a pool in North Carolina. In recent news reports, Black people have repeatedly been the targets of unsolicited 911 calls — but not as the result of their alleged support of neo-Nazis. In the pool incident, a white man suspected that a Black woman was a resident of the community, and the woman alleges it was because of her race, according to NBC News. The man demanded her ID and she refused to give it to him, so he called the police. He has since apologized repeatedly.
In Bannon's case, though, he was confronted because of his support of the Trump administration, and potentially because of his alleged support of neo-Nazis. Many Twitter users believe public protest should be used to make Trump administration officials or alleged neo-Nazis uncomfortable.
But Others Believe The Bookstore Owner Should Protect Customers From "Harassment"
Other users believe the bookstore owner had an obligation to protect the customers of his private business from harassment. It's unclear whether the bookstore owner would have asked the customer to leave if she had attempted to engage in discourse with Bannon about his views or had told him she disagrees with his views.
One user claimed that the "public harassment" could affect Democrats in the midterms:
A Few Users Think The Incident Is The Result Of A Comment By Rep. Maxine Waters
In late June, Rep. Maxine Waters of California said, according to NBC News:
If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they're not welcome anymore, anywhere.
President Trump responded on Twitter by saying she has a low IQ, according to NBC:
Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an extraordinarily low IQ person, has become, together with Nancy Pelosi, the Face of the Democrat Party. She has just called for harm to supporters, of which there are many, of the Make America Great Again movement. Be careful what you wish for Max!
It's worth noting that no part of Waters' statement called for "harm" to Trump's Cabinet or supporters.
One User Noted That The Customer's Comment To Bannon Was No Worse Than What President Trump Has Tweeted
One user wrote on Twitter regarding the bookshop incident that "Words are words, not bullets," and noted that Trump verbally insults elected officials on Twitter regularly.
Trump also told supporters at a campaign rally to "knock the crap" out of protestors, and that he would "pay for the legal fees" if they did, according to The Hill.
But, like former First Lady Michelle Obama said, "When they go low, we go high." Trump's rhetoric should never be used as an excuse for violence or threats by any side of the political spectrum. If tweets about the bookstore incident reach any consensus, it's that the woman who confronted Bannon achieved what was likely her goal — she made a statement.