Last week, over a period of two days, BookBar in Denver, Colorado, was twice vandalized by alleged members of a hate group. The indie bookstore was first vandalized on Wednesday, June 26, when stickers from a hate group were placed on the bookstore’s front windows. A second act of vandalism occurred on Thursday, June 27, during the bookstore’s Drag Queen Story Time event when a vandal defaced the storefront with black spray paint. Attendees at the event pursued the individual, who was arrested near the store.
“Our store was targeted [on Wednesday, June 26] because of our Drag Queen Story Time” scheduled for the next day, BookBar owner Nicole Sullivan told BTW. “Another store, Hope Tank, which also has a business philosophy of inclusion, was targeted with stickers the same day.”
Concerned about the store’s scheduled Drag Queen Story Time event, Sullivan said she enlisted the help of the police, the media, and the community. “Many families showed up for the event — some who were there to support us in the face of the previous day’s vandalism, and some just to listen to stories,” Sullivan noted. “Friends of the store and other business owners came out to support us as well.”
As it turns out, during the Drag Queen Story Time event, someone dressed in black spray-painted the front window in black paint, Sullivan said. “Some of our customers chased him and the police were able to take him down in the alley behind the store,” she recounted. BookBar has pressed charges, and the store is cooperating with police to charge this incident as a hate crime.
Since the incidents were reported, BookBar has been the recipient of an “overwhelming amount of e-mails, calls, visits, and comments on social media offering support,” said Sullivan.
The store, however, has also received plenty of negativity, she said. “Probably the biggest story here is the reaction we received to our blog post responding to negative comments (with book recommendations!). This post quickly went viral,” Sullivan noted.
On the whole, though, reactions have been mostly positive. “One of our neighbors from across the street came over and cleaned off the spray paint for us within just a few hours of the vandalism,” Sullivan said. “Families have come in to buy hundreds of dollars’ worth of books from us to show their support, people have been coming by and just giving us money to show their support (this money is being donated to Rainbow Alley, a local organization that provides support and services to LGBTQ youth), and we are being flooded with messages of love, support, and encouragement.”
Sullivan said her takeaway from the incident is that the local community is “absolutely amazing,” and that “love and humor win out over hate. Also, we refuse to be intimidated by hate groups for doing what we wholeheartedly believe is right.”