I spoke with local activists yesterday about the unprecedented closing of the park for "public safety" reasons.
"It is unconscionable that the city will allow out-of-town neo-Nazis to march here and taunt local minorities, while censoring local citizens who object to city funds supporting neo-Nazis," said one attendee of the cancelled public meeting. "It shows that the city is in bed with neo-Nazi groups, and shows exactly where the Mayor's sympathies lie."
Dozens of police could be seen in and around the park, and mounted patrols kept watch over the activists when they went to Manhattan Plaza to meet the media. Media personnel were also banned from the park, although people who had been in the park prior to the event were allowed to continue their recreational activities.
My personal opinion is that the decision to shut down the park represents a disturbing infringement of freedom of speech and freedom of association, and the city might find itself on the receiving end of expensive legal action. The city issued a brief statement explaining its rationale behind closing the park:
Wilson park was closed, effective noon, today. Toledo police received word of a rally with potential for confrontation. To avoid problems, Mayor Finkbeiner ordered the park closed.At the risk of invoking Godwin's Law, I think that the repressive nature of the closing of Wilson Park is indeed reminiscent of the actions of a certain fascist group that came to power in the 1930s. I respectfully suggest that the Mayor re-familiarize himself with portions of the Bill of Rights if and when this group decides to hold another legal public meeting.