Left: A carload of protesters being arrested on Sylvania Avenuue; photo by historymike
(Toledo, OH) The proverbial dust has settled in Toledo in the wake of the return of the NSM. Approximately 30 anti-Nazi protesters were arrested in various parts of the city, but freedom of speech for the Nazis was protected, and order was maintained in the city.
At what cost, though?
The city successfully argued before Judge Osowik on Friday to secure a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction against anyone protesting in public. The temporary restraining order is set to expire two weeks after the event, so I could technically be arrested today if I stood on the corner of Secor and Monroe with a sign that said: "Down with Nazis!"
The net result, as even noted by Bill White of the NSM, was that the city essentially put in place undeclared martial law, at least for one day. Police were given carte blanche to arrest anyone suspected of "illegal" protesting, and it is clear that they vigorously enforced the order.
Three journalists were arrested on Saturday, and I received a rebuke in no uncertain terms from a TPD captain that I would be arrested if I did not stay on the sidewalk when I was taking pictures of arrested anti-Nazi activists who attempted to gather at the West Toledo branch library.
The scene downtown was like being in an occupied military zone. There were armored vehicles, Coast Guard units, officers from at least 13 jurisdictions, and snipers with .50 caliber rifles.
All to protect the freedom of speech of three dozen Hitler fetishists.
I witnessed people being arrested who did not appear to have committed a crime, and received reports of people arrested for sitting in cars trying to warm up outside of the protest zone.
The costs of the freedoms of Toledoans (and those coming from other areas to protest the Nazis) were startling. As repugnant as it may seem to protect the rights of the Nazis to free speech, what about everyone else?
A protester that I interviewed on Saturday at the rally put it bluntly.
“They [the NSM] 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.”
Should a group of people, under the banner of free speech, be allowed to hold an entire city hostage? Should average citizens be denied their right to free speech just because the city believes there might be unrest?
And what if this event had occurred in warm weather, instead of in single-digit wind chills? I would be willing to bet that there would have been four times as many protesters, both inside and outside the "official" protest zone. How many detainees would it take before people would begin to think that the costs in terms of civil liberties to the general public outweigh those of the neo-Nazis?