More than 35 people wearing yellow vests marked "peace team" attended yesterday's neo-Nazi rally to try and quell violence. But by the end of the event, many clashed with law-enforcement officers over their tactics.
"I thought they were heavy-handed, and we thought their use of horses was very intimidating," said Perrysburg resident Kathy Baldoni, who helped organize The Toledo-Area Peace Team.
"Police seemed to arrest people without reason. They were clearly not doing anything that would have provoked an arrest."
Sheriff's deputies from several different Ohio counties rode on horseback through the crowd and pulled out protesters. At one point, a peace-team member, who refused to give her name, laid down in the path of a horse but was not arrested.
Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre said all arrests were justified.
He also said that law-enforcement officials did not want the peace team to attend the event. "I didn't particularly want them to be here," Chief Navarre said. "Numbers create problems for law enforcement."
The Michigan Peace Team joined the Toledo-Area Peace Team at the rally. Members stood poised throughout the crowd, and often pleaded with police officers not to arrest protesters.
A Toledo police officer, who refused to give his name, threatened to arrest several peace team members if they interfered with an arrest.
Peace team member Mark Mattison, who came from Grand Rapids, Mich., for the event, said he wished the neo-Nazis hadn't come to Toledo.
"This community has already been through a lot," Mr. Mattison said. "Through a variety of means, if necessary, we are here to prevent people from getting involved in violence."
The Rev. Larry Cameron of Pilgrim Church of the United Church of Christ, said the group diffused some situations within the crowd that could have escalated.
"There were a couple of incidents that could have gotten ugly," he said.
But Lucas County Sheriff James Telb said the people in yellow vests were mostly an obstacle for officers. "We asked them to stay away because we didn't need them."
Mary Jo Olsen, of Ann Arbor, disagreed with the sheriff and said the group was effective.
"I think the police should have kept the horses on the other side of the barrier," Ms. Olsen said. "It was very unsafe to bring them into the crowd."
After the rally, she said: "The Nazis are gone now, and I didn't hear a single word they said."
Contact Ignazio Messina at: email@example.com or 419-724-6171.