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Published: Sunday, 12/11/2005

Nazi rally sparks protest, prayer

BY CHRISTINA HALL
AND ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

A nonviolent neo-Nazi rally in downtown Toledo yesterday started with agitation and ended with a prayer.

Surrounded by an undaunted show of police force, the National Socialist Movement's hour-long rally at Government Center began 43 minutes late and ended with 30 arrests, including three news media photographers.

About 170 observers and counterprotesters stood in front of the TARTA bus station on Jackson Street, separated by a row of riot-clad officers, a median with trees, and a line of barriers. They held signs against hate and chanted for the 63 neo-Nazis, some in uniform, to leave.

Authorities reported no injuries or damage after the rally. They and the neo-Nazis said the event was a success.

"Today, it was law enforcement that hit a home run," Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre said yesterday.

Bill White, a National Socialist spokesman from Roanoke, Va., said participants included members of the Ku Klux Klan, Retaliator Skinhead Nation, and the World Church of the Creator.

"I think it went very well, extremely well," he said, despite technical difficulties with a public address system partway through the rally that prompted the group to use a bullhorn.

National Socialist Movement members rally in front of the Government Center. National Socialist Movement members rally in front of the Government Center.
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The National Socialists and supporters walked out with white-and-red flags and signs, such as one that read "White race stand up and take back your neighborhood," and yelled, "Hello, Toledo."

The neo-Nazi group and authorities differed on why the rally started late.

Mr. White said there were more neo-Nazis and supporters than police expected, which slowed security checks prior to the event. Chief Navarre said the National Socialists were late arriving at their meeting site.

During the rally, the neo-Nazis talked about their last visit, a planned rally Oct. 15 in North Toledo that was canceled and after which a riot ensued. They challenged protesters, saying they are always the first ones to come out and hear what the neo-Nazis have to say.

They also questioned more broad issues, such as America's reasons for being in Iraq, and said, "We stand up against violence and we stand up for the white race."

Protesters, some with their owns signs, chanted, "Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Nazis and the Klan have got to go," and "Nazi scum has got to go."

During the National Socialists' last visit, law enforcement did not have the upper hand. This time they clearly did.

Dozens of black-suited officers with shields lined the side of Jackson closest to Government Center. Several times during the rally, another line of police streamed from the warmth of the garage at the nearby Safety Building into the biting cold to walk behind the stationary line of officers and around the rally organizers.

The Wood County Sheriff's Office tank-like armored vehicle made a brief appearance outside the Safety Building. Air surveillance circled overhead, and police snipers watched from nearby rooftops.

Officers rode their horses, which were wearing protective eye shields, behind the barriers and in front of the designated public area.

"Horses make a difference. No one resists a horse. It's a real show of power," Lucas County Sheriff James Telb said.

He said the job of the mounted units was to go into the crowd and surround a person, so a team of arresting officers on foot could take the person into custody. A Michigan State University law student was arrested after she was accused of punching a police horse, authorities said.

Police showed zero tolerance, which some attendees supported and others questioned.

Vicki Conyers, 39, of North Toledo said she went to the rally for a couple of reasons and was pleased it did not turn out like the Oct. 15 incident, which she witnessed.

"They [police] got beat down the last time. Why shouldn't they be on edge?" she asked.

Others, such as Shaun Godwin, disagreed.

"They're just picking people out," the 26-year-old Ann Arbor man said. "Nobody has done anything."

Terry Lodge, a Toledo lawyer and longtime civil rights activist, said he was upset by what he perceived as police harassment. He noted how people constantly were brushed back by police horses. He also was disturbed by how some people seemed to have been arrested for being too vocal or animated.

"What you have in Toledo is martial law for a day," he said. "The whole business of shoving people back pre-emptively is wrong."

One outsider in the crowd agreed that security went too far.

"It's clearly police intimidation against the people of Toledo," said Shanta Driver of Detroit, who identified herself as a member of the National Women's Rights Organizing Committee.

J. Eaton, 26, of North Toledo said he saw police officers arrest a man after overhearing someone say that it appeared there was "something brewing" between him and others. "They're just abusing their power," Mr. Eaton said.

John Jackson, 21, of West Toledo said the neo-Nazis can spew all the rhetoric they want as long as they don't incite rioting in a black neighborhood again. "Just stay out of the 'hood," he said.

Although disappointed by some of the police tactics, Mr. Jackson was one of a fair number of people who gave police credit for maintaining order. He said he recognized what law enforcement was up against. "They're just doing their job," he said.

Authorities said 26 adults and four juveniles were arrested, all for misdemeanor offenses, including disorderly conduct and inciting violence. Most of those arrested were not from Toledo.

Three people were arrested for carrying concealed weapons after they were found with knives while passing through metal detectors at two designated public entries.

Videos were taken of those entering the rally, including news media representatives, for "intelligence gathering for future investigations," Chief Navarre said, declining to elaborate further.

Seven people were arrested for violating the temporary restraining order issued Friday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court that prohibited any group from gathering in a neighborhood away from the rally zone. They were anti-neo-Nazi protesters, and they were arrested in the 1300 block of Sylvania Avenue.

Jeff Willis, a Toledo Journal photographer, was the first to be arrested - even before the rally started. He and two freelance photographers were arrested for crossing police lines.

Sheriff Telb said the three were released last night. The others arrested are scheduled to appear today in Toledo Municipal Court, which will open because of the number of arrests.

One woman, a student from Michigan State University, said she was dragged from the crowd by the arms and handcuffed. She said she was being arrested "for opposing fascism."

Before she was handcuffed, media representatives saw an officer subdue her by punching her in the head and using what they described as a stun gun-type device.

When questioned after the rally, Chief Navarre and Sheriff Telb said none of the officers used Tasers on the crowd.

Toledo Safety Director Joe Walter said city police are issued Tasers, they are not issued stun guns. If someone files a complaint or provides a video of the incident to authorities, it will be reviewed, he said.

Candice Young, a member of the Detroit chapter of the National Women's Rights Organizing Committee and a sophomore at Eastern Michigan University, went to the rally with a group of placard-carrying protesters.

"We cannot allow the Nazis to organize in Toledo without a protest," she insisted as the group chanted, "No Nazis! No KKK! No Fascists USA!"

"Nazis absolutely cannot go unopposed," yelled Elizabeth O'Brien, a freshman at Michigan State University.

She was one of 13 students, all members of Direct Action, a Michigan State student organization, who attended. Six Michigan State students were among those arrested for inciting violence, members of the group said as they hurried away from the rally site.

Alan Hart of South Toledo said the rally was a waste of taxpayer money.

"My father fought in World War II, and I thought we did away with the Nazis," he said. "These are a bunch of [Adolf] Hitler wannabes, and the police seem to be looking to arrest anyone who gets in the way of the little horse patrol."

Ray Murdock, a former North Toledoan, said he wished no one had come to the rally.

"It would have been funny if no one showed up, even the media, because this is a circus," he said. "They got about 12 people up there speaking, and they look like idiots."

Tracy Turner, 37, of central Toledo does not think the neo-Nazis will return because unlike last time, he said, they did not get what they wanted.

He said the community generally kept its composure and the lack of rioting means the rally will be perceived as a relative nonevent by the national news media.

Mr. Turner was not sure what, if anything, had been accomplished in the long run for North Toledo residents who used the riot to draw attention to a variety of frustrations, including a lack of services.

"Did [the combination of the two events] create a new dialogue? Did it change anything?" he asked. "I don't know."

Neither did Craig Wescoe, a 23-year-old University of Toledo student who knelt alone on the cold street as crews began picking up barriers and removing tarps protecting Government Center's ground-level windows.

Mr. Wescoe, who said he was a speaker at a prayer vigil Friday night at Government Center, returned to pray.

"I finished the consecration of the Government Center," he said.

Blade staff writers Tom Henry, Ignazio Messina, and Karamagi Rujumba contributed to this report.

Contact Christina Hall at: chall@theblade.com or 419-724-6007.



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