Anarchists from around the Bay Area and beyond converged on the Mission District this weekend for the annual Anarchist Book Fair, trading their previous garden venue for the bondage ambiance of the Armory Community Center.
In recent years the two-day fair has been held at the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, but this year it moved to the headquarters of Kink.com, the pornography studio that specializes in BDSM productions, because of escalating costs.
The annual gathering draws anarchists with a range of political and social views. The Haight’s Bound Together Bookstore launched the fair in 1996 to celebrate its 20th anniversary, and continues to host the event today.
Organizers chose to hold the fair at the Armory this year because the 40,000-square-foot space was “the cheapest one we could afford that was also accessible to public transportation,” said Jen Angel, a member of the Book Fair Committee.
Not everyone in the Bay Area anarchist community agreed with the venue choice; some were critical of Kink.com’s labor practices, its place within the Mission community and the nature of its product.
Other Mission District sites under consideration for the fair included the Women’s Building, the Mission Cultural Center and schools such as Mission High and Buena Vista Horace Mann, according to a post on the event’s blog. Ultimately, cost and size won out.
Some decided to table elsewhere over the weekend, and what participants called “subversive book events” took place at Station 40, a collectively run event space on 16th and Mission streets, as well as at an “(anti)art collective” on 17th Street.
Despite the opposition, many vendors at the main event did not have a problem with the location. Bay Area anarchist collectives such as the Long Haul Infoshop, AK Press, Bound Together Books and Endless Canvas sold their newest literature at the Armory Community Center.
“It’s fun,” said Jesse Palmer, a member of the Berkeley-based Slingshot newspaper collective. “It’s the sole place on the planet to find the most radical books available,” he said of the annual fair. This year marked the event’s 18th anniversary, making it one of the oldest anarchist book fairs in the country.
“It hasn’t really changed,” said V. Vale, a San Francisco-based publisher who has been a vendor since the fair’s inception. “It’s moved to this ginormous space, but that’s about it.”
The space was under construction, with unfinished wood floors and caution tape around the tabling area and the perimeter of the building.
“It’s a great place to talk with people,” Palmer said as he started packing up for the day. “It’s much bigger than you might think.”