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Neighbors defend protest over neo-Nazi march

Toledo police began hearing  midweek that gangs were going to descend on a neighborhood where a riot erupted over a planned march by a white supremacist group, but the resulting disturbance was worse than expected.
Clouds of tear gas fill the streets of Toledo, Ohio, on Saturday after violence erupted between people protesting a planned white supremacist march and local police.
Clouds of tear gas fill the streets of Toledo, Ohio, on Saturday after violence erupted between people protesting a planned white supremacist march and local police.J. D. Pooley / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

In the days leading up to a white supremacist march, ministers pleaded with residents to stay calm and community leaders organized peace rallies.

Authorities even delayed releasing the route so protesters wouldn’t know where the group planned to march.

It wasn’t enough to stop an angry mob that included gang members from looting and burning a neighborhood bar, smashing the windows of a gas station and hurling rocks and bottles at police on Saturday. Twelve officers were injured, one suffering a concussion when a brick flew through her cruiser window.

In all, 114 people were arrested on charges including assault, vandalism, failure to disperse and overnight curfew violations.

“We knew during the preparation that it was going to be a tremendous challenge,” Police Chief Mike Navarre said Sunday. “Anyone who would accuse us of being underprepared I would take exception with that.”

Anger toward neo-Nazis, local authorities
Much of the anger boiled over because people were upset that city leaders were willing to allow the supremacists to walk through the neighborhood and shout insults, residents and authorities said.

“You can’t allow people to come challenge a whole city and not think they weren’t going to strike back,” said Kenneth Allen, 47, who watched the violence begin near his home.

Authorities said there was little they could do to stop the group, because they did not apply for a parade permit and instead planned to walk along sidewalks.

“They do have a right to walk on the Toledo sidewalks,” said Mayor Jack Ford, who at one point confronted leaders of the mob and tried to settle them down.

A gang member in a mask threatened to shoot him, and others cursed him for allowing the march, the mayor said. He said he didn’t know if the man who threatened him was actually armed, but he blamed gangs for much of the violence. The march had been called off because of the crowds, and the white supremacists had left.

If the Nazi group tries to come back, Ford said he would seek a court order to stop them.

March took place in mostly black neighborhood
Navarre said the riots escalated because members of the National Socialist Movement took their protest to the neighborhood, which is predominantly black, instead of a neutral place. “If this march had occurred in downtown Toledo, we wouldn’t have had the unrest,” he said.

The neo-Nazi group, known as “America’s Nazi Party,” said they came to the city because of a dispute between neighbors, one white and the other black.

Police began receiving word midweek from officers on the street that gangs were going to descend on the neighborhood in protest, the police chief said. The disturbances were confined to a 1-square-mile area, but the crowd swelled to about 600 people, overwhelming police.

The crowds were eventually dispersed by police in riot gear after about four hours, and the mayor declared a state of emergency that remained in effect through the weekend.

About 200 officers patrolled the neighborhood overnight after the riot, Navarre said. Police reported no problems Sunday, but an 8 p.m. curfew was in effect for a second night.

Neighbors were divided about the city allowing the march.

“They don’t have the right to bring hate to my front yard,” said Terrance Anderson, who lives near a bar that was destroyed.

Other neighbors said the group had a right to have their say. “Too bad the people couldn’t ignore them,” said Dee Huntley.