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(en) US, Baltimore, Media: Anarchists Rally for Red Emma's - Collective hopes a new bookstore will thrive

From Dan Clore <clore@columbia-center.org>
Date Thu, 2 Dec 2004 12:03:59 +0100 (CET)

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On a recent Sunday night, three men sat at Red Emma's Bookstore and
Coffeehouse, Baltimore's newest anarchist infoshop. They were there
to see a screening of several films produced by the Independent Media Center.
The organizer of the evening's activities, John Duda, seemed
disappointed with the turnout.
"Was anything else going on tonight?" he asked.
One customer, with a mop of brown hair, volunteered a reason
why so few comrades-in-arms turned out for the event: "The
Anarchists Union and the Women's Healthcare Collective meet
on Sunday nights," he said. A-ha.

The old joke goes that it's hard to organize a group of
anarchists. Nevertheless, Red Emma's -- which is managed by
a 15-person collective -- is trying to do just that in the
city's cultural district. It's at 800 St. Paul St.

"Our main thing is just having a place for individuals to
learn about ideas that are not in the mainstream," said Liam
Flynn, 39, who lives in Mount Vernon and gave up his career
in the merchant marine to dedicate himself full time to the
new bookstore.

To this end, the store -- which is in a space that has been
vacant for more than 10 years -- sells books that are not
typically seen in the large chain stores. Categories
include: occult, prison industrial complex and, of course,

The shop also provides free wireless Internet service for
the Laptop Nation and has three desktop computers for people
to use.

"Now with the Patriot Act, the government can get access to
what people look at [on computers] in libraries. We won't
tell anyone what you look at," promised Flynn. "But we'd
hope people would be respectful," he quickly added.

The small, submerged store is cozy but somewhat austere. The
polished cement floors are bare. Yet, an assortment of
plants and the exposed brick walls add warmth to the venue.
One member of the collective constructed an elaborate
wrought-iron gate that adorns the door. Union posters hang
on the walls, and bulletin boards advertise various
progressive events.

The group wants local activists and artists to use the space
for meetings. They've extended invitations for people to do
poetry-writing workshops, play readings, computer classes
and art shows.

Similar anarchist bookshops -- or infoshops -- have sprung
up in 15 to 20 American cities, said Chuck Munson, the
publisher of Practical Anarchist, a quarterly magazine for
the community. Munson runs one in Kansas City, Mo.

"Anarchists tend to have a critique of all power
structures," Munson explained. They "want to create a more
egalitarian society where people are equal and have more say
in their lives."

He said the anarchist movement was gaining strength in the
late 1990s with large-scale demonstrations against the World
Trade Organization. Since 9/11, however, work has slowed down.

Still, he said, the anarchist agenda includes protesting
globalization, pollution, corporate media ownership, the
Federal Communication Commission, attacks on civil
liberties, the lack of affordable housing and, recently, the
plans for a new baseball stadium in Washington.

The anarchists at Red Emma's emphasized that they don't want
to jam this stuff down anyone's throat. "We're about free
discussion of ideas," said Kate Khatib, a 27-year-old
collective member who is working toward a doctorate in
intellectual history at the Johns Hopkins University. "We're
just providing information."

At Red Emma's, they practice what they preach. The shop is
run on a volunteer basis by a collective that meets once a
week to make major business decisions, which are made by a
super majority. "Its all very casual; people joke around at
meetings. Rarely does it take on a conspiratorial feel,"
said collective member Andrew Byrne.

Some of the collective members are familiar with this
structure from their involvement with Black Planet, a
similar book store that used to be in Fells Point.

The hope is that Mount Vernon, with a rash of students and
cultural institutions, will produce more foot traffic.

And, there has been a steady flow of local customers
wandering in and out.

On a recent Sunday, two groups of people were browsing the
stacks at Red Emma's after viewing shows at the Baltimore
Museum of Art.

Others live or work in the area and have been eagerly
awaiting the opening of new space in Mount Vernon --
particularly one that is open on Sundays when many of the
area's shops are closed.

But it is not for everyone. "I just don't think anarchy is a
viable solution to the problems I see," said Everly Braun.
"I like books, but I'm really not into their politics."

However, her husband, Gilles Mascarell, an artist, picked up
an unusual Russian science textbook, something he may
incorporate into his collages.

Red Emma's is at 800 St. Paul St. Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m.,
seven days a week. Starting Tuesday, hours will be extended
to 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Call 410-230-0450 or visit
http://www.red emmas.org

Dan Clore

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