A Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge yesterday gave Toledo police the authority to arrest any neo-Nazis who try to march in a residential neighborhood today.
Judge Thomas Osowik granted an injunction sought by the city barring assembly by the National Socialist Movement anywhere other than Government Center in downtown Toledo.
Bill White, of Roanoke, Va., spokesman for the neo-Nazi group, argued against the order in a hearing, calling it a violation of his constitutional right to free speech.
But Mr. White said he and his fellow neo-Nazis weren't planning anything other than the rally they had agreed to do at Government Center.
"All he's done is enjoined us from doing something we had no intention of doing in the first place," Mr. White said, adding that the judge ruled against case law.
Toledo city senior attorney Adam Loukx said the ruling was "perfectly in sync" with established law.
The neo-Nazi group announced last month that it would return to Toledo after its planned march on Oct. 15 in North Toledo sparked a riot and was canceled by police.
The reason for the Oct. 15 march was to protest what the group called black crime.
The neo-Nazis agreed to hold their rally at Government Center after Mayor Jack Ford said the city would take legal steps to try to prohibit another neighborhood march.
Police plan to restrict access to the area bounded by Adams and Superior streets, Constitution Avenue, and Spielbusch Avenue to Michigan Street, starting at 8 a.m. The rally is from 2 to 4 p.m.
Judge Osowik said violation of his order would be contempt of court and could be punished with incarceration or a fine of $25,000 per hour that the illegal assembly takes place.
City officials said the order also applies to any other group - such as anti-Nazi protesters - who try to meet in a neighborhood away from the rally zone.
The city sued on Thursday after police said they received intelligence from federal authorities that rioters would go into the North Toledo neighborhood that was the site of the previous neo-Nazi appearance in Toledo and set fire to vacant buildings.
Police Chief Mike Navarre said that Ohio's neo-Nazi leader, Mark Martin, told police officials in telephone conversations several days ago that he was dissatisfied with the plans for the rally at Government Center, particularly the decision not to separate neo-Nazi supporters from the counterdemonstrators.
Mr. White, who is not a lawyer, argued that the neo-Nazis' rights to assemble shouldn't be restricted just because other people react violently to their speech or clothing.
Judge Osowik said the violence that followed the attempted neo-Nazi march in the North Toledo neighborhood was evidence that violence could recur.
"When the choice is between an abbreviated march and a bloodbath, the government must have some leeway" to protect the march participants and others, the judge said.
Mr. White was joined in the courtroom by Ron Riehl, a neo-Nazi member from Fremont who is the northwest Ohio leader. He did not speak.
After the hearing, Mr. White left the Lucas County Courthouse trailed by Lucas County sheriff's deputies.
He said the group planned a meeting and private rally last night with its chairman, Clifford Herrington, and its commander, Jeff Schoep, at a location he would not disclose. He estimated the location was 15 or 16 miles from Toledo.
"We'll have fun. The main event in these things for us is always the socializing before and after," Mr. White said.
Also attending the hearing was a small group of anti-Nazi activists who are organizing demonstrations to drown out the neo-Nazis' message.
Luke Massie, of the Detroit-based National Women's Rights Organizing Coalition, said he was trying to gather a large group to interfere with what he called a recruitment campaign by the National Socialist Movement "by whatever means necessary."
"We're going to show a very strong and determined resistance to the attempt to establish a fascist beachhead in Toledo," he said.
The suit prompted a courtroom debate over the competing demands of free speech and maintaining peace.
The city's motion said it doesn't have the ability to maintain safety and protect residents and property if neo-Nazi members and counterdemonstrators overflow into residential areas.
The Oct. 15 violence resulted in more than 120 arrests and costs of $336,000.
Blade staff writer Mark Reiter contributed to this report.
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