FBI unleashes spies on a Chicago bookstore

By Ilona Gersh
May 1, 2023

CHICAGO — The owners of Pilsen Community Books here discovered the FBI has been spying on them. “They called us ‘pro-abortion extremists’ because we had a sign-painting event for the June 22 [2022] action supporting a woman’s right to choose abortion that [Illinois] Gov. Pritzker spoke at,” Mandy Medley, a worker-owner of the bookstore, told the Militant. “And ‘anarchist violence extremists’ for hosting a teach-in on the fight in Atlanta against building a huge new police training center.”

“They don’t want us to get together to share experiences, to think and dream of a better world and how to create it,” Medley told Unicorn Riot, a Minneapolis-based independent news outlet that obtained the heavily redacted 30-page FBI document on the bookstore. “That’s exactly what the FBI doesn’t want us to do.”

“We’re open to the public, open to the community,” she told the Militant. “Everything is very much out there in terms of what we believe and what we do. I was shocked that the FBI would be interested in us this way.”

Medley said she thought “we were on the police radar before that. This is a police-free place, so people will feel comfortable here. We asked a Latina cop to leave. She claimed she was looking for a Bible. And then she left.

“This is designed to intimidate us, but only strengthens my resolve to continue organizing for a better world,” she said. “Calling you names is also a way to discourage people from coming into the bookstore.”

Its website describes the worker-owners’ goal is “to unite their passion for bookselling with their belief that labor is entitled to all it produces.” They frequently hold public activities at the storefront.

They have gotten support against FBI spying from City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, Blue Stockings in New York and Firestone Co-op in Ashville, North Carolina.

As Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor in the April 4 elections here, I offered our support as well.