Left: Riot police in formation; all photos by historymike
(Toledo, OH) Saturday’s neo-Nazi rally at One Government Center turned out to have a far different outcome than an earlier event.
The deployment of 700 local and state police officers – with help from some federal agencies – prevented a repeat of the riot that swept through North Toledo six weeks ago.
Approximately 40 members of the National Socialist Movement arrived for the hour-long rally, which started 45 minutes late. There were about 90 people in the “official” protest zone, and perhaps an equal amount milling about around the perimeter of the cordoned area.
George Windau, a local labor activist, said that many of the anti-Nazi protesters chose to boycott the rally.
“What the police wanted – and got - is a small, docile crowd that was easy to control,” he said. “Many of the anti-fascists did not want to get stuffed in a cage.”
Left: One of the many anti-Nazi protesters who opted to boycott the "official" protest zone
Windau said that the effort to protect the freedom of speech of the Nazis resulted in the repression of freedoms of everyone else.
“Toledo is a test area for a new form of fascism,” he said. “People have been frightened into submission, but I hope that enough people will become angry about the violation of their civil liberties that we have witnessed today.”
The October 15 rally by the NSM cost an estimated $336,000 in expenditures on police and safety personnel. Nearly 140 people were arrested, stores were looted, and a local bar burned.
Police clearly had the upper hand at Saturday’s rally. There were no reports of violence, and police quickly responded to break up any potential sources on unrest before they could solidify into active resistance.
Anti-Nazi activists planned to use local branches of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library as staging areas for protests, but police quickly dispersed gathered groups. Seven people were arrested on Sylvania Avenue across from the West Toledo Library at approximately 12:15 PM.
Other plots, including a group of anarchists who intended to “welcome” the Nazis at the motel in which they were staying, were also broken up. Police and sheriff’s cruisers spotted the anti-Nazi activists before they could leave their cars.
Three teenagers were also arrested sitting in a car in front of the downtown library at approximately 3:15 PM.
Left: The Toledo Journal's Jeff Willis gets taken away
At the rally, police wasted no time in arresting protesters who they believed to be engaging in illegal behavior. There were at least a dozen undercover officers milling in the crowd, identifying “problem” protesters for arrest.
In addition to the arrested anti-Nazi protesters, at least three journalists were detained for interfering with police business. One of those was Jeff Willis of the Toledo Journal, who tried to avoid a skittish police horse and inadvertently placed a foot across a police line.
“What did I do?” asked a bewildered Willis as he was led away.
A Toledoan named Molly Nolan unveiled a pro-Nazi sign in the protest area.
Left: Toledoan Molly Nolan being escorted from the anti-Nazi protest zone
“I am here to support the NSM,” she said to the angry crowd, which chanted some colorful retorts. Police and peace team activists escorted her from the protest zone.
“I just wanted to stand up for what I believe in,” said Nolan, who added that her husband is in a Michigan prison and is an Aryan Nations member.
Police were aided by temperatures in the low 20s, with wind chill readings dipping into the single digits.
“Everyone I talked with said that they were not going to come out in this weather,” said Antoine Bennett of Toledo. “Last time it was like summer, and everyone was out.”
Left: Peace team members try to stay warm
Residents of the near North End were among the counter-protesters.
“I came to the rally because I'm completely against the neo-Nazis and I wanted to help drown their message out,” said Nicole Creech. “My overall impression is that the Nazis are all talk and no action in response to what they promise the rally will be. The counter protestors were successful in drowning out the scum bags.”
Most of the scheduled rally speakers could not be heard very well in the protest area. The chanting of the protesters, the great distance at which the Nazis were located, and a malfunctioning PA system all contributed to an NSM message that was largely inaudible.
Some protesters decried the quickness with which protesters were arrested.
“People got arrested who did nothing more than yell at the Nazis,” said Kerry Martin of Toledo. “One woman was standing right next to me and then whoop – she was taken away.”
Left: Toledo Police arresting seven protesters on Sylvania Avenue
Other protesters were unhappy with the symbolic manner in which the Nazis returned.
“They walked right out the front door of our city hall to shout their hate messages,” said Danita Watkins of Toledo. “It’s just like the city rolled out the red carpet for them. They are up there acting like they own the city now.”
Police Chief Mike Navarre estimated that the cost of the operation “will likely exceed $300, 000,” but indicated that the city’s response was a metaphorical “home run.”
“We put forth a much better image to the world today than on October 15,” he said.
This article appears in this week's Toledo Free Press.