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Police sparked violence at Toledo anti-Nazi protest
"Nazis brought hate to my front yard"

By Alex Read and Patrick Dyer | October 21, 2005 | Page 12

OFFICIALS IN Toledo, Ohio, imposed a state of a state of emergency and an 8 p.m. curfew October 15 following clashes between police and anti-Nazi protesters.

Earlier in the day, the hundreds of antiracists forced the cancellation of an attempted march by a neo-Nazi group, the so-called National Socialist Movement, through a mostly African American neighborhood of North Toledo. The counterprotest of activists and neighborhood residents swelled to 600 as it faced 15 Nazis standing in "formation" on the lawn of Woodward High School.

The size and anger of the crowd frightened Toledo officials into hustling the Nazis out of the area, but no one told the demonstrators. When several hundred people headed for where they thought the racists would march, they were met by lines of riot cops who went on a rampage, arresting, tear-gassing and setting off concussion grenades.

By the end of the afternoon, the anger--at both the racists and the police and city officials who protected them--boiled over into a full-scale rebellion. Multiple police, medical and news vehicles were damaged, and at least one fire was started. Police arrested more than 100 people, and Democratic Mayor Jack Ford called a dusk-to-dawn curfew for two successive nights.

Ford and other officials blamed the clashes on everyone but the Nazis--street gangs, outside agitators and so on. But residents of the neighborhood placed the blame where it belongs. "They don't have the right to bring hate to my front yard," resident Terrance Anderson told a reporter.

The line from city officials was little different from the statements of Nazis, who told the media that they were coming to march in Toledo to protect white people from Black gangs. Alice Lee, a lifelong resident of North Toledo, saw it differently. "It's ridiculous for them to say they're going to take back the neighborhood. They don't even live here. This has been our neighborhood since the 1920s."

In the days leading up to the event, Ford and other city officials pleaded with residents to "ignore" the Nazis. An "Erase the Hate" event was planned at the local Zabloski Center, offering free pizza to anyone who would ignore Nazis marching in their neighborhood.

Many antiracists ignored Ford, instead planning for a counter-demonstration to confront the Nazis.

Meanwhile, Toledo police revealed their true colors when Gregg Harris, president of the police union, stated that the antiracist demonstrators were "no better or no different in my opinion than the neo-Nazis. They're a hate group just as well."

On the morning of October 15, about 150 anti-Nazi activists marched down Stickney Avenue in North Toledo to join a large group of residents gathering across the street from the high school where the Nazis stood. The crowd continued to grow in size and confidence, but remained peaceful in spite of a barricade of cops forming a human wall in front of demonstrators. Chanting drowned out any filth that the tiny group of racists may have been spewing.

Eventually, the counterprotest grew to more than 600 people, and their antiracist shouts became deafening. Tony Martin, a lifelong resident of Toledo, said he had never experienced anything like it. "They were basically there saying that we're not going to tolerate this kind of a group in our area," Martin said.

At one point, someone in the crowd threw eggs and rocks at the Nazis and their police escort. Horse-mounted cops then charged into the ranks of the counter-demonstrators and pulled out a scapegoat.

At the same time, the Nazis turned around and moved quickly in the opposite direction. Police Chief Mike Navarre later admitted that he had decided to cancel the Nazi march "due to the large number of protesters."

But antiracist demonstrators weren't informed of the cancellation, so hundreds of protesters ran towards Mulberry Street where they expected the racist creeps to be marching. Instead, they were met by a wall of riot cops, ready for action.

Anger at the police attack on people who came out to send an antiracist message continued to build through the afternoon, leading to more confrontations, and then rioting.

Ford tried to blame the clashes on gangs. But anyone who was there could see that the counterprotesters were a multiracial crowd of men and women, young and old.

For their part, the Nazis denounced left-wing groups, including the International Socialist Organization, who supposedly showed up and "handed out eggs to African American residents," according to an allegation in one news report. Ford actually went along with this, telling CNN, "Based on the intelligence we received, that's exactly what they do--they come into town and get people riled up."

But the residents of the neighborhood where the Nazis rallied didn't need anyone to "rile them up." The Nazis' appearance stoked their anger--and, as resident Washington Muhammad pointed out, the city's decision to spend $100,000 to provide security for 15 Nazis. "Everybody else does without a police escort," said Muhammad. "The Nazis should have had a banner behind them that said, 'Sponsored by the City of Toledo.'"

Activists are planning a response to protest the police crackdown against anti-Nazi demonstrators, and to make sure that the truth is told about what happened--that on October 15, Toledo residents said no to racist hate.

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