A bookstore owner in Richmond, Va. called police on Saturday after a woman confronted former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who was also shopping at the store. Nick Cooke, who owns Black Swan Books reported the incident to police because the woman “repeatedly shouted obscenities” at Bannon and called him a “piece of trash,” according to USA Today.
The Richmond Police Department received the call on Saturday afternoon, but the call was canceled before any officers arrived at the scene, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Cooke defended calling the police, explaining, “Steve Bannon was simply standing, looking at books, minding his own business. I asked her to leave, and she wouldn’t.”
Bannon was appointed to the Trump cabinet last year on Inauguration Day, and he left office on Aug. 18, 2017, just days after the deadly neo-Nazi attack in Charlottesville, Va. Before joining the Trump White House, he was the executive chairman of Breitbart News, a right-wing media organization that often pushes anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant stories. Bannon himself described the outlet as “the platform for the alt-right,” a white supremacist ideology whose belief is that the white race is “under attack by multicultural forces,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The incident comes after various Trump officials, including White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, have been challenged in public spaces. Stephen Miller, the president’s senior adviser, was also confronted near his apartment over the weekend by a bartender who cursed at him and gave him the middle finger, the Washington Post reported. Miller responded by throwing away the $80 worth of sushi he had just ordered.
While some have claimed that confronting Trump officials in public spaces is not “civil,” others have argued that the negative consequences of the administration are more extreme than “socially shunning” the people who represent it.
Cooke, the bookstore’s owner told the Times-Dispatch, “Bookshops are all about ideas and tolerating different opinions and not about verbally assaulting somebody, which is what was happening.”
Following Saturday’s incident, former Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines tweeted the contact information for the bookstore and said he was “providing a service to the public.” He added, “I’d point out through (sic) it’s possible this woman stopped a book burning.”