Police Chief Mike Navarre and Mayor Jack Ford.
Members of a neo-Nazi group plan an Oct. 15 march through a North Toledo neighborhood to challenge two local black gangs there and to prevent the "victimization of whites by blacks," a spokesman for the group said yesterday.
Members of the National Socialist Movement's Toledo-area unit are planning the march in response to crimes and threats allegedly committed against whites by the Dexter [Street] Boyz and Stickney 33 gangs, said Bill White, a national spokesman for the group and leader of its Roanoke, Va., unit. He said a few dozen members of what the movement claims is the largest socialist group in the United States are expected.
Mr. White said members plan to wear their uniforms of brown shirts, black pants, and red swastika armbands.
"We will be directed to events in that [North Toledo] neighborhood and Toledo's black crime problem in general," Mr. White said. "We want to let white people know that other white people are defending them ... "
Police Chief Mike Navarre and other city officials, who learned of the event yesterday, are re-searching the group and planning for its arrival.
"Our job is to protect these protesters," the chief said. "We'll be prepared to do that."
Lucas County Sheriff James Telb has offered to assist city police with additional law enforcement support.
Mayor Jack Ford said officials are not going to allow groups to "spread hate and unrest in our city."
He said police will maintain control at the march and address any acts of civil disobedience.
The best way for the general public to respond to the movement's presence that day is to ignore it, Mayor Ford said. Carty Finkbeiner, former strong mayor who is challenging Mr. Ford on the Nov. 8 ballot, did not return calls seeking comment.
Mayor Ford said he plans to meet formally and informally with neighbors in the neighborhood before the march.
He said he is appealing to adults, ministers, and community leaders to educate the youth in the neighborhood about the harmful effects of taking up the movement's challenge and to keep the groups from clashing.
Chief Navarre said the group will have to apply for a parade permit if it wants to close a street. He said the marchers may not walk down the street and obstruct the free passage of pedestrians or vehicles, but they may walk on the sidewalk.
Mr. White said the movement is not asking for special accommodations - including police protection - or to close down streets. If city officials try to ban the march, he said the group will take them to court.
Police said the problem in North Toledo apparently began over a dispute between Bronson Avenue resident Thomas Szych, who is white, and his neighbor, who is black, about a fence.
Mr. Szych was named in the socialist movement's press release because of his problems with gang members. Mr. Szych received a threatening flyer that indicated it was from the Dexter gang and he said he has had vandalism to his property.
Chief Navarre said Mr. Szych, his brother, and his father have made many complaints and reports about gang activity in the neighborhood. Officials aren't receiving complaints and reports from other residents, he said.
Mr. Szych said the police response to his complaints has been poor. Chief Navarre said police have devoted a large amount of resources to Mr. Szych's concerns.
"The officers following up on the complaints find them to be exaggerated," the chief said.
Mr. Ford said Mr. Szych's father made derogatory comments about two African-American officers, describing them as "gorillas with guns."
Mr. Szych, who bought a handgun for protection but had it taken for safekeeping by police after he allegedly waved it at youths, said he is not a part of the socialist movement and did not ask for the group's help.
Mr. White confirmed other local residents contacted the group, but would not identify them.
"I'm not against what they're doing," Mr. Szych said, "but I think what they're doing will create more havoc for the residents in the neighborhood."
WilliAnn Moore, president of the Toledo Branch of the NAACP, said she doesn't believe the socialist group is sincere about solving gang problems in Toledo. "It's sounds like they are looking for trouble," she said.
Ms. Moore said the NAACP is urging black youths to not even dignify the group's event.
"I have already talked with some of the members of the religious community and the regional director of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and we will be doing something proactive so this doesn't turn into some kind of race war," she said.
Chief Navarre said authorities will work with the FBI and other officials to gather information about the socialist group and its activities. The group has held marches, rallies, and events in Valley Forge, Pa., Lincoln, Neb., and Yorktown, Va.
Blade staff writer Clyde Hughes contributed to this report.
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