Inquiring Minds Bookstore in Saugerties, New York, has won its fight with town officials who attempted to force the bookstore to remove from its front window an anti-Trump banner that includes a swastika. The town had issued two notices of zoning violations to store owner Brian Donoghue in an effort to force him to remove the banner from a display that draws parallels between the rise of Adolf Hitler and the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump.
Donoghue refused to remove the banner from the display, which also includes 18 books about Trump and about the history of Nazi Germany. Signs in the window explain the purpose of the display, and the famous quotation from Martin Niemöeller about the dangers of not forcefully speaking out against hate is featured.
At the request of the American Booksellers Association, attorneys for Media Coalition informed town officials that the order to remove the banner violated Donoghue’s First Amendment rights. ABA is a founding member of Media Coalition, a trade association that defends the free speech rights of booksellers and other distributors of media.
Without admitting that they had violated the First Amendment, the officials agreed to withdraw the notices of violations and to remove the threat of fines if the bookstore removes the banner after the election — something Donoghue had always intended to do.
Donoghue said he was surprised by the strong reaction to his display. Two dozen Trump supporters picketed the store on October 18, and the New York chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, a group that fights anti-Semitism, issued a press release denouncing the display.
“I expected some hostility, but I did not expect the intensity of the response. The level of vitriol that was directed at me and my family was unsettling,” he said.
The controversy has not hurt the bookstore, however. “After reading about it in the paper, people came from all over the region to make a point of visiting the store,” Donoghue explained. “In fact, people were calling and e-mailing orders from all across the country.”
The store staff strongly supported the display. “They all felt like they took part in something that made a difference,” he said.
Donoghue expressed appreciation for the support of ABA and Media Coalition. “Knowing that ABA had my back the whole way took a lot of the stress out of the situation,” he said.