It appears that Richmond is the latest stop on the national story line regarding the public shaming of Trump officials.
Saturday, Black Swan Books owner Nick Cooke called police after a woman in his store confronted Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist and former chairman of Breitbart News, the fringe right wing media organization. Bannon grew up in Richmond and attended Benedictine High School.
The as-yet-identified woman reportedly yelled obscenities at Bannon, who was looking at books, and Cooke told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he asked her to leave, then called 911 when she did not. Richmond police confirmed to the newspaper that a call was made but that it was canceled. The woman had left.
"We are a bookshop. Bookshops are all about ideas and tolerating different opinions and not about verbally assaulting somebody, which is what was happening," Cooke told the Times-Dispatch.
Unsurprisingly, the story caught fire on social media and in the national media, following as it did various high profile public confrontations with Trump officials, including the ejection of Sarah Huckabee Sanders from the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington.
Regarding the Richmond story, two distinct sides have taken shape: Those who believe the bookstore owner had a right to protect any customer from abuse, and many more who believe the owner and his shop should be punished, or boycotted, for defending an alleged racist.
A woman peacefully confronted Steve Bannon at Black Swan Books in Richmond, Virginia. The owner of the store called the cops on her. Siding with a white supremacist like Bannon is a terrible business model. I predict Black Swan Books will be out of business soon.— Palmer Report (@PalmerReport) July 8, 2018
Any reputable business should take whatever action is necessary to protect its customers against verbal or physical abuse no matter if they're Steve Bannon or David Brock. Thank you, Nick Cooke, owner of Black Swan Books, for doing the right thing.— Blake Linton (@BlakeLinton) July 8, 2018
Democrats wrongly think public harassment will work; but it won’t. Steve Bannon probably laughed it off knowing they’ll lose in the midterms & look back on this tactic as one of the reasons. It’s another example of lib politics where a “feel good” action has the opposite effect.— Rich (@richbigly) July 8, 2018
Some on social media immediately speculated that Cooke and Bannon were friends because the Times-Dispatch story noted that Cooke offered no comment when asked if he had a personal relationship with Bannon, because he wanted to respect his customer's privacy, he said. Bannon has been known to visit Black Swan Books in the past.
Cooke has since posted this message on his store's website:
On Saturday, July 7, 2018, a person entered Black Swan Books and repeatedly shouted obscenities at a customer, Steve Bannon. While I personally disagree strongly with Mr. Bannon's political views, I will not allow someone to shout obscenities at any customer in our bookstore. I certainly regret that some are upset or offended. I did my best to deal with an unexpected and difficult situation.
Since the story broke, a former aide to Hillary Clinton tweeted out the address and phone number for Black Swan, which was retweeted thousands of times.
Calls to Black Swan Books went unanswered: The voicemail was full. The store is only open on Fridays through Sundays.
Richmond's moment in this spotlight may be shortlived though, as protesters just chased Mitch McConnell away from a restaurant chanting "Turtle Head."