March 25, 2016
Anonymous targets Denver’s Tattered Cover Book Store over city’s handling of homeless
by Chad Felix
On March 8th, representatives of the city of Denver posted signs in “homeless camps”—areas of the city where homeless populations congregate—notifying the occupants that they had 24 hours to vacate the premises. The next day, as promised, the police came and cleared these areas of any remaining shelters, belongings, and people.
The city, unsurprisingly, has drawn widespread criticism for these actions.
On March 12th, the most infamous of the critics, Anonymous, upped the ante ten-fold by threatening to dox any individuals and organizations that they view as supporting the city’s actions. It’s a gesture that puts Denver’s Tattered Cover Book Store in a pretty uncomfortable position—and the effect is amplified by the fact that Anonymous calls the bookstore out by name in their campaign’s accompanying video.
Anonymous’s message reads:
Would the Tattered Cover take a stand if people were being killed or attacked and left to die on your door step? Can you truly not see this is exactly the act that is happening and Tattered Cover decides to take no stand, no opposition for crimes against human rights? As long as this is how you respond to acts against humanity, we will be at your doorstep making others aware of how you feel about this community, and your lack of effort to defend it.
Okay. Here’s why they’re implicated: Tattered Cover is a member of the Downtown Denver Partnership, a city-improvement organization that is known to be in support of the camp sweeps. So the bookshop is guilty by affiliation—at least according to Anonymous. Len Vlahos, the store’s co-owner, however, sees things a bit differently. He explains to Sydney Jarrard of the American Booksellers Association:
As has been well-reported, Tattered Cover has never taken a position on Denver’s urban camping ban. Our refusal to take a stance on matters of public policy is principled; our customers need to know that they have unfettered access to books and content without fear of judgment or reprisal. The opponents of the camping ban know this, but have chosen to ignore it.
Vlahos continues, speculating why Tattered Cover—just one of the indicted partnership’s members—is being targeted specifically:
Because Tattered Cover has a very potent brand name in Denver, and because our customer base is a very desirable demographic, they feel they can make hay by targeting us. The protests against Tattered Cover—and, of course, we support any citizen’s right to protest in a peaceful and civil way — as well as the illegal assault on Tattered Cover’s website is tactical, not philosophical.
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.