A man wearing a uniform representing the KKK shows where his sympathies lie at the National Socialist Movement rally in front of One Government Center.
An angry crowd hurled obscenities and chanted at neo-Nazis who led an hour-long rally in downtown Toledo on Saturday while a massive police force — many in riot gear — separated the two sides.
The National Socialist Movement event closed downtown streets for hours and drew about 200 counter-demonstrators and observers, who responded with vocal attacks but not violence to the speeches and Nazi salutes from about 30 neo-Nazis.
Unlike a decade ago, when a neo-Nazi visit sparked rioting in North Toledo and led to more than 100 arrests, Saturday’s event was tense but triggered only one arrest.
No arrests were made during the rally in front of One Government Center.
One person was arrested for disorderly conduct afterward, as police and deputies on horseback pushed the crowd out of a fenced-in area and dispersed spectators north along Huron Street toward Cherry Street. That led to some clashes between police and the public.
At 3:30 p.m., the Neo-Nazis, many dressed in head-to-toe-black and combat boots gathered on government-center steps. They carried flags with swastikas and greeted the crowd on Jackson Street with a simple: “Good afternoon, Toledo.”
“White people should have the right to stand up for white people,” said Jeff Schoep of Detroit, commander of the National Socialist Movement, the first speaker. He said that the city faces the same issues now as it did in 2005, when the neo-Nazi visit led to riots.
Mr. Schoep, before the event, said the group returned because the city is “on the front line of illegal immigration” and crime has risen.
Several members of the movement took turns using a microphone hooked up to a speaker system to address the crowd, but counterprotesters often drowned them out with boos and chants that took aim at the group and the police.
Jennifer Newton of downtown Toledo hugged her two biracial children — ages 8 and 9 — as speakers shouted through the sound system about “white rights.”
“I want them to know that not everyone is going to like them,” Ms. Newton said. “I think he is full of hate. … He is telling people not to judge and he comes here and he is judging us.”
The event drew a racially diverse, multigenerational mix of peaceful onlookers, vocal detractors, and activists.
Eighteen-year-old Hanna Ljungholm of Sylvania was flabbergasted by what the neo-Nazis shouted and was surprised by the massive police presence.
“It’s 2015 and [the neo-Nazis] are really ignorant,” Miss Ljungholm said. “I can’t believe what they are saying.”
The controversy surrounding the rally began before police even opened the gates to let spectators inside the two block-long stretch.
City leaders told police Saturday that anyone with a gun would not be permitted to enter the protest area, despite the city’s failure last week to convince Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Michael Goulding to issue a temporary restraining order prohibiting weapons. Jeff Garvas, president of Ohioans for Concealed Carry, opposed the city’s ban.
Members of the Toledo Police Department, many in riot gear, stand guard while the National Socialist Movement holds its rally.
“I think they are relentless in their effort to blatantly ignore state law and the limits on their authority as a city in Ohio,” Mr. Garvas said. “They went to two different courts and have been told no twice, and they are going to do it anyway. That sounds like something my child would do.”
But no one tried to bring in a gun. Had they, officers would have turned them away, officials said.
Each person entering the police perimeter had to empty their pockets and go through one of two portable metal detectors where Toledo police officers and Lucas County sheriff's deputies were stationed.
One man with a pocketknife was asked to put it back in his vehicle; he obliged without argument. A woman with pepper spray on her keychain was told she could not take it in; she also did not protest.
Police after the rally arrested Jerlnard Barnes, 30, 830 Berry St., and charged him with drug abuse, disorderly conduct, and failure to disperse. He was still being held in the Lucas County jail late Saturday, according to authorities. In addition to that arrest, Toledo police Lt. Joe Heffernan said police escorted out one person who threw items at the neo-Nazis.
There were no reports of injuries or property damage.
Lieutenant Heffernan could not give a number of police in attendance, though there appeared to be hundreds.
“I am happy there were not any major disturbances of peace,” Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson said.
The mayor said she supported Police Chief George Kral's tactical plan but she was not briefed before the event. Toledo taxpayers will pay at least $100,000 for police overtime, city officials said.
10 years ago
Some in the crowd remembered the violence that erupted during and after a neo-Nazi rally in Toledo a decade ago.
On Oct. 15, 2005, a visit to Toledo by the same neo-Nazi group sparked a riot in North Toledo. About 115 people were charged with riot-related offenses, ranging from aggravated rioting and felonious assault to burglary and resisting arrest. Several businesses were looted, and crowds threw bottles, bricks, and rocks at law enforcement officials, who answered with tear gas and wooden pellets.
The National Socialist Movement members planned a march that was canceled because of violence. About 15 neo-Nazis showed up at Woodward High School and yelled “white pride, not hate” and shouted other chants.
More than 60 neo-Nazi protesters returned that December and held an hour-long rally at One Government Center. Nearly 200 observers and counterprotesters gathered along Jackson Street. During that event, 30 people, including four juveniles, were arrested for misdemeanors such as inciting violence and disorderly conduct. Most were not from Toledo.
Before the neo-Nazis marched out Saturday, dozens of people milled peacefully, but the crowd soon swelled to about 200.
Nicki Bassett, 41, of Bryan, Ohio, drove an hour with her son Mason, 16, to observe the rally and described the large police presence as a precautionary measure.
She and her son wore T-shirts with hand-written messages for the occasion. Ms. Bassett’s shirt stated “Ignorance is taught. Please stop breeding.”
“It is an important lesson that you just don’t hate,” she said. “I want more people to realize that this is what [the] minority of people in the world think; most people are accepting of race, of religion, and of sexual orientation.”
Sarah Hartman of East Toledo stood at a fence erected to distance protesters like herself and the neo-Nazis, and was shocked to see her cousin among the members of the controversial group.
The two women traded obscenities and barbs from across the barriers and through the Toledo police officers standing in full tactical gear. The woman with the neo-Nazi group responded with the Nazi salute and shouting “Sieg Heil.”
“Our whole family is mixed, so I don’t know why she is up there,” Ms. Hartman said. “She will never be invited to anything ever again.”
Maurice Dates, 53, of Detroit drove to Toledo for the first time Saturday to listen to the neo-Nazis.
“I always used to hear about people like this over the years and I wanted to see for myself, the people who hate me for no reason — people who don’t know me but hate me,” said Mr. Dates, an African-American.
Staff writer Taylor Dungjen contributed to this report.
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