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Antiracists confront Nazis in Ohio

By Jason Bechtel and Patrick Dyer | December 16, 2005 | Page 15

TOLEDO, Ohio--A massive police presence to protect a neo-Nazi rally here December 11 led to the arrest of 30 antiracists, including several who were pulled over by cops far from the actual protest.

The National Socialist Movement, a swastika-wearing Nazi organization, was run out of town October 15 by a crowd of largely African American protesters, who, when attacked by police, fought back. This time, city officials used overwhelming force--including 500 police officers, many of them on horseback--to try to intimidate demonstrators.

The real story turned out not to be the neo-Nazi rally, but the trampling of civil rights that occurred in the name of public safety. An injunction granted by a judge December 9 essentially put the city under martial law for a day.

Under the judge's order, protests were banned anywhere outside of the designated police perimeter around 1 Government Center, the site of the Nazi rally. Everyone entering the site was required to leave behind anything deemed "threatening" by police. Signs could not have sticks or poles attached. Everyone had to walk through a metal detector. Finally, everyone was required to stand in front of a video camera for documentation.

In spite of this police state atmosphere, 150 people defied police intimidation and showed up to protest the Nazis. And although everyone at the protest had passed through tight security, police methodically walked a line of horses along the barricades, forcing the protesters to back up. Anyone who did not do so quickly was arrested.

According to a legal observer, every time a protester would insult the police, officers on horseback and on foot would make an incursion into the crowd and apprehend that person. Meanwhile, horses were being maneuvered inside the crowd, often slamming into and nearly trampling protesters.

Two of the protesters arrested were Latinos from Lansing, Mich., who police claimed matched the descriptions of two individuals at the October riot. It can be proved that they were nowhere near Toledo on that day--but racial profiling became a convenient excuse for the police to arrest at will.

These tactics had both the direct effect of removing protesters from the site and the follow-up effect of intimidation, which drove many to leave early to avoid arrest. The police succeeded in decimating our forces and, in the process, succeeded in shredding our civil rights.

In the coming days, as bails are posted and charges are dropped and plead down, a class-action lawsuit against the city and the police department must materialize. If Toledo can get away with these heavy-handed tactics to protect Nazis without repercussions, then other cities will do likewise.

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