Ayers is an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, an elementary education theorist, and the author of numerous books. But he is also a 1960s anti-war activist who has admitted to participating in domestic bombings as a way of protesting the Vietnam War.
When Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, Ill., scheduled an April 8 appearance by Ayers and his wife Bernadine Dohrn at their store, they were flooded with so many negative comments and threats that they have now decided to cancel Ayer's appearance.
"The hysterical and ugly comments about the appearance multiplied each day and we feared our customers and staff might be in physical jeopardy if we held the scheduled program," says a statement on the store's website.
"We are not happy about having to make this decision," the statement continues. "Bookstores play an integral part in the process by which ideas are disseminated and debated. Debate is essential in our society, and we take seriously our responsibility to promote ideas, including those that we personally do not endorse or condone."
Anderson's also says that it will soon host a "town meeting-type freedom of speech forum" because the store hopes to "provide an outlet for examining how respectful discourse can enrich our lives and our community."