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Published: Thursday, 10/20/2005

Roanoke disavows connection to neo-Nazi

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Harris Harris
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The leaders of Roanoke, Va., want Toledo to know neo-Nazi leader William A. "Bill" White doesn't represent them.

Spurred by members of Roanoke's City Council, Mayor Nelson Harris said he will write a letter to Toledo Mayor Jack Ford expressing embarrassment for Mr. White's role in a rally that triggered a riot on Saturday.

Mr. Harris could not be reached yesterday, and his assistant, Joyce Johnson, said the letter had not been written yet.

Mr. White, who moved to Roanoke two years ago, is a spokesman for the National Socialist Movement and led a white-power rally in North Toledo Saturday.

The event sparked mob violence in the area south of Woodward High School, including rock-throwing and damage to businesses, vehicles, and property. Police arrested 114 people during the five-hour disturbance.

Mayor Ford said last night he hadn't heard from the mayor of Roanoke but would release the letter publicly if he gets one.

On Monday, several members of Roanoke's City Council expressed their disappointment over the disturbance that put both cities in the national news. The western Virginia city has about 95,000 residents.

Councilman and Vice Mayor Beverly Fitzpatrick, Jr., expressed concern that the name of the Roanoke community was used "in a repugnant manner" and urged the mayor of Roanoke to write to the mayor of Toledo "advising the citizens of Toledo that Mr. William White does not represent the City of Roanoke," according to the council's Web site.

Mr. Harris told council he shares their views and added, "Legally the council can only respond to incidents that occur in the Roanoke community," according to minutes of the council meeting.

Mr. White, who claims to head the Roanoke unit of the National Socialist Movement, vowed yesterday to return to Toledo but said officials won't be notified.

"We're just going to show up one day and march in there," he said.

Mr. White said the group is signing up and training new members. "When we have done that, then we will look at coming back into that neighborhood," Mr. White said.

He dismissed the reaction of the Roanoke City Council and that city's mayor. "His letter doesn't have any more meaning than anyone else's letter. A lot of your citizens have written to me apologizing for your mayor," Mr. White told The Blade.

He also said the mayors of both cities are "wimps."

Mayor Ford has said the city will try to block a repeat visit by the National Socialist Movement but said it probably won't succeed.

Legal experts have said Toledo cannot stop the group's members from speaking or walking along a public sidewalk because of the U.S. Constitution's protection of free speech.

Blade staff writer Christina Hall contributed to this report. Information from the Associated Press also was used in this report.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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