Left: Toledo's historic St. Adalbert Church, likely to be near the geographic center of Saturday's activity
I have been working the phones, fax, and emails to understand the phenomena that is the NSM visit to Toledo on Saturday, October 15. This essay is a distillation of several dozen conversations that I have had with Toledoans in the past week from all walks of life on this subject.
Due to the high level of attention that this event is generating here and across the country, I am withholding the names of everyone involved. Far be it from me to have harm come to anyone who spoke with me on the topic, even though quite a few people were willing to stand up for their beliefs.
Note: Some of the viewpoints expressed border on conspiracy theories. This does not take away from the fact that people believe in certain ways; I am reporting what is being said around the water coolers and lunch trucks of Toledo.
One man I spoke with was quite blunt.
"Why are these racists coming all the way from Virginia to Toledo?" he asked. "I'll tell you why - they were invited by local racists."
"The Toledo Police benefit from this, because it will create a climate of fear," he said. "That will make it easier for them to get more funding next budget."
Another man thinks that the police department will make the mistake of putting mostly white officers near the Nazis.
"If they are dumb enough to do that, people will think that TPD is only there to protect the white Nazis," he said. "They better think about not creating that impression."
One person I spoke with Sunday said that he was buying lunch at a fast-food restaurant when he overheard black and Hispanic employees - teenagers - spouting off about taking shots at Nazis.
"Now, part of me wanted to dismiss it as just kids," he said, "but another part of me thought that there might be one or two people who would carry out such a threat."
A woman I spoke with plans to be as far away from the fracas as possible.
"I live six blocks from Ground Zero," she said. "I am taking my kids out of town for the weekend until things cool off."
One man said that he thinks the Nazis are being allowed to come to Toledo to act as catalysts for a period of vigilante violence.
"The message they are sending is that it's OK for these extra-legal forces to take over as thugs for the system," he said. "They did not see this in Hitler's Germany until it was too late."
Most people were in agreement that local Toledo street gangs are the least predictable element in this scenario.
"If the gang task force can convince enough gang leaders to tell their people to sit this one out, then the police should be able to keep things under control," said one man. "But if the gangs show up at the rally, all hell is going to break loose."
I recall driving down Detroit near Delaware in the summer of 2004 on a Sunday when I saw Bloodfest, the annual cookout/gathering/show of colors for members, associates, and wannabes of the gang. A ring of about 30 officers kept a watchful eye on a crowd of perhaps 300 people in the parking lot of the party store on that corner, and the Blood colors created a shimmering sea of red in the Old West End.
The event went off with few incidents, but, then again, it was a sunny summer afternoon, and the mood was one of calm.
Will the same be true this Saturday when Bill White brings his NSM supporters to the North End?