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Bombs Hit 2 Berkeley Bookstores : N.Y. Paper Damaged; Bush Assails Violence 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 suffered 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.

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 would 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.

In Orange County, artist Steve Mellow, founder of the Readers Theater, said he planned a tribute Friday to Rushdie at the beginning of his monthly session on "transformation" at Scribner Book Store in Costa Mesa. Neither Scribner nor representatives of the shopping center where the book store is situated were available for comment Tuesday evening.

Mellow said Scribner representatives were aware of what he planned to do and have expressed safety concerns about the reading. "I don't think they would stop the tribute. But I would go along with whatever they decide," he said.

Mellow added that he did not choose Rushdie's book because of the controversy it has generated. "I am always looking for any opportunity to bring focus on a living author to the public," he said. "I'm not looking to catch on to a sensational idea."

Meanwhile, 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."

Andy 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 3-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 poster stated.

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.

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