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Firebombs Damage 2 Berkeley Book Shops : Another Hits N.Y. Newspaper; Bush Warns Against Violent Protests Over Rushdie Novel

March 01, 1989|KEVIN RODERICK and JOHN J. GOLDMAN | Times Staff Writers

Pre-dawn firebombs hurled through windows Tuesday damaged two Berkeley book stores, one a literary and political landmark whose owner had vowed publicly to resist Islamic pressure to stop selling "The Satanic Verses," as violence apparently broke out around the Salman Rushdie novel.

A loaded pipe bomb was later discovered inside the landmark Cody's book store near the University of California campus and safely detonated by police, while in New York, the offices of a weekly newspaper that defended Rushdie suffered serious damage from a third firebomb.

No one was injured in the attacks. In Berkeley, Cody's and the Waldenbooks outlet on Telegraph Avenue sustained minor fire damage. Radio station KPFA-FM in Berkeley also received a threatening telephone call about a Tuesday program of readings from the Rushdie book.

Both book stores sold out their stock of "The Satanic Verses" two weeks ago. The manager of Waldenbooks said Tuesday that he will go ahead with plans to sell the book when a new shipment arrives, but the owner of Cody's said he will meet with employees first before carrying on with his pledge to resist Islamic pressure.

"I want to sell the book, but I have to think about my employees," Andy Ross said. "You shouldn't have to have your life on the line to sell books in this country."

The bombings Tuesday were the first violent incidents directed at Americans since Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called on Muslims to kill Rushdie and exact other retribution for alleged offenses against Islam in the novel by the Indian-born writer.

In Washington, President Bush told reporters at the conclusion of a Cabinet meeting Tuesday that his Administration will not tolerate further violent protests aimed at the Rushdie novel.

"We don't yet know if the bombings are related to the book, 'The Satanic Verses.' But let me be clear--anyone undertaking acts of intimidation or violence aimed at the author, the publishers or the distributors of "The Satanic Verses" will be prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law.

"And while the details surrounding these incidents and the motives of those who carried them out are still unclear, I think it is important to take this occasion to state where the U.S. government and, I'm convinced the American people, stand on violence and on our rights.

"This country was founded on the principles of free speech and religious tolerance. And we fought throughout our history to protect these principles. And I want to make unequivocally clear that the United States will not tolerate any assault on these rights of American citizens."

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, so police do not have any clear links to Muslim extremists. But both Berkeley stores had announced their intentions to resume sales of "The Satanic Verses" when new shipments arrived. The weekly Riverdale Press in Manhattan had published a pro-Rushdie editorial last week.

Berkeley Police Lt. Michel de Latour confirmed late Tuesday that police had searched at least two apartments of Muslim students near campus an hour after the bombings. Zakia Henry, one of the students, told The Times that police came to her apartment at the Rochdale building about 5:30 a.m., searched the premises and said only that they were looking for suspects.

"We're just treating it as a regular crime, but it's probably not that," Latour said. "So far, we don't have anyone taking responsibility for this, so we have no motive. But you can certainly speculate what the motive might be."

Ross, owner of Cody's, said Tuesday, "It looks like a pretty fair assumption to me" that the bombs were related to his high-profile stance against Muslim efforts to quash the Rushdie book.

A three-foot-high poster was still hanging from the ceiling Tuesday proclaiming that "The Satanic Verses" would be sold openly when the new shipments arrive. "All booksellers, all writers, all publishers, all readers are victims of the intellectual terrorism that is being directed against Mr. Rushdie. . . . We feel that this policy is a small but important act if we are to triumph over terror."

The fire was controlled shortly after being set about 4 a.m., and employees were still sweeping up about 8:15 a.m. when a janitor discovered the pipe bomb. The foot-long device was hidden under a book cart. The store was evacuated, and a Berkeley police unit detonated the bomb.

Ross said he would hold his meeting of employees before deciding whether to stock new copies of the book next week. But he said freedom of ideas was an important principle to uphold.

"This is about the Constitution, and I think it's worth protecting," Ross said.

Cody's has been a welcome haven for political activists, writers and intellectuals on Telegraph since the Free Speech Movement days in Berkeley in the '60s.

"Believe it or not, all through the People's Park protests, when every other shop window was getting broken, nothing happened to Cody's," store manager Nick Setka said.

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