Toledo neo-Nazi rally verbally heated but nonviolentWritten by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | email@example.com
Counter-demonstrators hurled heated verbal volleys and obscene hand gestures toward the National Socialist Movement (NSM) members — and sometimes Toledo Police — during a Downtown rally April 18, but the event ended after about an hour with no major incidents.
About 150 people showed up to counter-demonstrate or observe the neo-Nazi rally, which included speeches, signs, flags and Nazi salutes. Members of the public and media were separated from the NSM demonstrators by two lines of Toledo Police officers, many in riot gear.
No arrests were made during the rally, said Toledo Police Department (TPD) spokesman Lt. Joe Heffernan. One person was arrested after the rally for disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. One person was escorted from the rally for throwing something.
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“It went as best as could be expected,” Heffernan said. “There were very minimal, minor incidents. There was a low turnout, both with NSM and the public, which is exactly what we wanted. We appreciate the citizens of Toledo for doing what we suggested and staying away.”
Several Downtown streets were blocked off starting at 10 a.m. with a strong law enforcement presence surrounding the rally location at One Government Center.
The rally started on schedule at 3:30 p.m., with the speakers’ words often drowned out by counter-demonstrators, booing and shouting “Black power!” “Black lives matter!” “Go home!” and other chants and slogans.
“White people should have the right to stand up for white people,” NSM Commander Jeff Schoep said during the rally.
Mohammed Abdali of Toledo was among those who attended. He said he was offended by NSM’s message.
“For these guys to say they are a white civil rights group, it’s just disrespectful,” said Abdali, who is black. “The reason why they have black civil rights and Hispanic civil rights and Asian civil rights is because of the fact that we have been oppressed over the decades and we need progress to help us. They say they have no rights either. They have plenty of it. It’s called white privilege. But yet they don’t see it. it’s not enough for them. They want more power.”
Deonte Moss of Toledo came to the rally with a sign reading, “U hate me, I [heart] U.”
“We have a lot of people who work full time to hate, so people who love have to work even harder,” Moss said. “I believe if I love more than those people hate, if I touch one of them and get them to change, then that is a blessing and it will help get them to the next level. I’m a Christian and I just want to promote love. Love conquers all. Love heals all.”
Renae Dupler of Toledo was among the observers standing quietly near the back of the crowd. She brought her 16-year-old daughter Sydnee Dupler to the rally.
“I just want her to experience some things there are in life,” Dupler said. “I don’t want her to be sheltered. I’ve always taught her growing up you don’t see color. You don’t see black and white. You don’t see a man with a man as being a bad thing or a woman with a woman. It’s just part of the world. But everybody’s got their own opinion and it it what it is. People are taught racism; they aren’t born with it.”
David Sole of Detroit, a member of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice, said he attended the rally to promote unity over division.
“Their message is destructive for all people,” Sole said. “We need to unite to fight for jobs and education and housing and against the cutbacks and this message is destructive to that. We pledged to come out and oppose them and let them know they will not be allowed to flourish. We will stand with all people — black, white, Latino — and prepare to fight them if necessary [on] their message of hate.”
During the rally, several members mentioned NSM’s last visit to Toledo in 2005, which triggered widespread rioting, about 100 arrests and the burning of a business.
“The Toledo rally was important 10 years ago, due to violence in the city, and is just as important today considering things have not improved there,” Schoep wrote in the news release announcing the rally.
Schoep did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the April 18 rally, but in a letter to the editor published last month in Toledo Free Press, he blamed the 2005 riots on “the communists and the anarchists who inspired the hate, destruction, and violence.”
“This was NOT the day of violence ‘inspired by a group of people who only hate,’” Schoep wrote. “More correctly, this was the day that communists and anarchists motivated the black citizens of Toledo to rise against their own community in hate.
“We in the National Socialist Movement are often misrepresented by the mainstream press,” he wrote. “I wonder what it is about a white civil rights organization that you find to be so hateful? The NSM is made up of countless men and women whom have served this nation in the military, others who work in public service and many other professions. Stereotyping an entire group of people is true hate, and its wrong. It would be like us saying that every black person in Toledo is a rioter and criminal, that is certainly not true and we do not stereotype in such a manner. The NSM is highly active on the U.S. borders, and abide by an America First platform. If standing up for white civil rights, defending our Nations borders, and taking a nationalist, America First political stand is considered low and hatefull then so be it. … We have a lot more support in Toledo than I think you realize.”
A group of legal observers with the National Lawyers Guild were also in attendance, wearing neon green ball caps. Member Michael Sabbagh said the group attends rallies and other events when invited by counter-demonstrators to watch police interactions and offer legal assistance to anyone arrested.
NSM members ended the rally at 4:39 p.m. and police and deputies on horseback immediately moved the crowd out of the area, with one officer shouting into a megaphone for people to disperse. This led to a minor clash nearby with law enforcement as people were forced off the site of the rally, but resolved quickly.
The City of Toledo is estimating police overtime costs related to the rally could be $100,000, a spokeswoman said.
Among other area agencies assisting were the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Lucas County Sheriff’s Office, Wood County Sheriff’s Office, Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office and Allen County Sheriff’s Office, who brought the mounted unit.