Over one hundred people were arrested this weekend in Toledo, Ohio after a riot broke out in the North section of the city where a Neo-Nazi group planned to march through a predominately African-American neighborhood. [includes rush transcript]
On Saturday, a neo-Nazi rally was planned by a group known as the "National Socialist Movement." The spokesman for the group, Bill White, said they were invited to come to the area by a white resident who complained to them about "black criminal behavior."
The Nazis planned to march through a predominately African-American neighborhood but authorities called it off when a large counter-demonstration assembled in response. The two sides hurled racial insults at each other for more than hour and then, Police allege, counter-demonstrators started to hurl rocks at the Nazis. The Police then called off the Nazi march but the violence escalated. By Sunday night, 114 people were arrested on charges that included rioting, burglary, felonious assault and carrying a concealed weapon.
To talk more about this, we are joined from Toledo, Ohio, by Pastor Mansour Bey. He is a minister at Toledo’s First Church of God.
- Mansour Bey, Pastor at the First Church of God.
AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about this we’re joined in Toledo, Ohio, by Pastor Mansour Bey. He’s minister at Toledo’s First Church of God. Welcome to Democracy Now!
MANSOUR BEY: Good morning. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Why don’t you lay out for us your understanding of what took place this weekend, what led up to it, and then what happened?
MANSOUR BEY: Well, about three weeks ago, the announcement came out, was publicized that the neo-Nazis were coming to Toledo. And immediately after that, there was some publicity. The media picked it up and began to promote — I shouldn’t say promote, but at least they began to do news stories, both on television and radio and The Blade. And some of those were very provocative. They gave a forum to Mr. White and Mr. Martin, so that by the time Saturday arrived, a lot of people were already angry because of some of the remarks that had already been made, in terms of the neo-Nazis coming to challenge the gangs and to liberate the white people from the blacks who were terrorizing their neighborhoods. And so, as I said, already the word had went out that we’re not going to let these people come into our hood, into our territory and just do what they want to do.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, then what happened?
MANSOUR BEY: Well, on Saturday the police were there in, what some might say, adequate numbers. The neo-Nazis actually started staging earlier than anticipated and they started staging their — they staged in a very visible public place right on one side of a street or an entrance to a park. The park is where they were supposed to — in the center of the park was where they were supposed to stage. But they staged right on the street there, which they were very visible.
So, quickly more than 200 or 300 residents and, I should add, professional counterdemonstrations who came into Toledo from surrounding cities and states, who came in and began to confront and to again insult and just to kind of do verbal battle with the neo-Nazis. I should say also that among those professional counter-protestors, there were what some — they were anarchists who really were inciting a lot of the people. In fact, it was them who originally brought eggs and other type of refuge and was passing it out among the residents of the neighborhood. And at one point, those eggs and refuge were thrown at the neo-Nazis, and the police reacted very swiftly and very forcefully by moving in the mounted police.
And that kind of angered the people, also, because when they came in with the horses, they did not discriminate. They were knocking over — not over, but knocking back women, children and even myself. I was pushed back by a horse. So now — and the people are really — they’re angry at the neo-Nazis, but now their anger was beginning to build towards the police, also, who they felt that they were protecting the neo-Nazis, who were, again, in their neighborhood. And that was the theme throughout the day. They’re in our neighborhood. They’re in our neighborhood. They should not be in our neighborhood.
So, shortly after that, things got worse. They moved away. The counter-protesters went to the other side of the park, because the Nazis disappeared. And the assumption was that the Nazis were going to go ahead and stage their march on the other side of the park. But when the counter-protesters, now nearly maybe 400 people, got to the other side is when they actually had their first confrontation with the police, who would not allow them to come near the park. And that’s when the initial tear gas canisters were set off. And following that, then the people came back with their bricks and their rocks. And so it began, the battle began.
During that time the chief of police called off the march and sent the Nazis home. And I happened to be standing right there and saw the Nazis get in their cars and leave. But none of the counter-protesters saw this. So, many of them — this is about 11:00 in the morning, and even as late as 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon, some of them were still believing — you know, the residents were still believing that the neo-Nazis were still inside of that park being protected by police. But I knew that they had already left town. And we tried to get that word out, but unfortunately that word did not get out.
So the people became more and more agitated because they felt three things. Number one, the neo-Nazis should have never been allowed to come into their neighborhood. Number two, they were angry at the mayor for, again, making the statement that the neo-Nazis had the right for freedom of speech to say what they were saying in their neighborhood. And thirdly, even when they were told that the neo-Nazis were gone, then they wanted to know, well, how come the police are still here then? How come they’re still occupying our neighborhood? And so that really began again to build that — that those anger — that resentment began to build.
Finally, the gang element showed up. Shortly after noon when the noon news came on and began to talk about the situation in North Toledo, then all over the city of Toledo people began to assemble, and the crowds quickly grew to, I would say, at least 1,000 or more. And now we have the gang element there; and they really began — They took over the crowd; and they begin to instigate; and that led to all of the mayhem and the rioting that ensued, including the breaking in and looting and burning of several buildings.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Mansour Bey, pastor at the First Church of God in Toledo. And so, the riot broke out. How did the police move in at this point? And, upon reflection, Mansour Bey, what do you think should have happened, and where do you go from here in Toledo?
MANSOUR BEY: Well, first, let me say this: that there was a lull in the battle around, I would say, 2:00; and the mayor called for some assistance of ministers. I happened to be right there near the — ’cause I was circulating — all this time, I was circulating in among the residents trying to listen to them, trying to speak a word of peace and calm. So when the mayor put out his call I went to the command station and met with the police chief, fire chief, safety director, and the mayor; and it was decided that the mayor, myself, the fire chief and the safety director would walk unescorted to negotiate with — who at this time we knew were gang leaders.
So we went actually at great risk. In fact, as we approached rocks and bricks were thrown at us at first until they recognized — I had a collar on, and they recognized I as a minister. So people in the crowd began to shout, "Stop throwing bricks! Stop throwing bricks!" But we stood there maybe for about 45 minutes trying to negotiate, trying to find out what it would take to get the — now the protesters (because now they’re not counter-protesters they are the actual protesters) — to get them to disperse. And one thing we ended up with, their demand was that they be allowed to march and that they be allowed to enter into the park where the police had set up their command station, because they kept insisting, "This is our park! This is our neighborhood!"
But, unfortunately, at the same time we were talking with and negotiating, we could see just across the street from us. We saw people coming out of the bar that had just been looted holding up bottles of whiskey and whatever; and when I saw that I knew in my heart that things were going to quickly go downhill. And, certainly a few minutes — we left and came back with what we thought was an answer. We were going to allow them to march. But before we could actually get back to talk to the leaders, we saw fire. We saw smoke. And at that point the fire chief called it off and told the police: Do what you have to do. They moved in with force, dispersed the crowd.
One thing I can say, and that is this: That that was on Saturday at 4:00, 5:00. Since then we have not had any other reaction. There were a few more arrests made. Those were mostly for curfew violations. There has not been any other acts of violence or vandalism or arson. And, to me, it speaks volumes, because, what it’s saying is that the people, yes, were angry, and what they did was senseless. We can not justify it. We can not excuse it. Anybody who acted — who were perpetuators of that — those acts should be arrested and persecuted to the fullest extent of the law. So, we’re not excusing it; but I will say that now, today, on Sunday and Monday and Tuesday has not been another incident which, again, the people were angry. They were angry, justifiably so in my mind. The Nazis should have never been allowed to come into that neighborhood.
AMY GOODMAN: Mansour Bey, what about the broadcast a few days before the attack — or the event, the planned march?
MANSOUR BEY: Well, again, one of the local radio stations, they have a very popular drive time radio program. And it’s a call-in show. And they had — they were interviewing either Martin or White — In fact, both of them; one day it was Martin the next day it was Bill White, the leaders of this neo-Nazi movement. And on both days, the host tried to be politically correct and, you know, talk about why they had this particular philosophy of hate. But each time the guests would say: "Well, give me my time. It’s my turn. You got me on, let me say what I want to say." And they gave a forum, to these neo-Nazis.
And they were allowed to really challenge. I mean, they really spoke to the people, to the neighborhood and really challenged, you know, African Americans, the blacks, you know. "This is white man’s time! White power! We’re coming in and we’re gonna be kicking butt!" you know. And they were really saying those types of things. So, I know first-hand that people were angry because of this, and yes — The gangs even called a truce, and actually showed up, as I said, and participated. It was not a gang-led riot. I’m saying it was gang-influenced in some ways, but the majority, the vast majority of the people out of the thousand who gathered there, I would say out of that maybe there was fifty, seventy-five, a hundred maybe gang members.
AMY GOODMAN: Nine years ago, a Klan march in Columbus also?
MANSOUR BEY: In Toledo.
AMY GOODMAN: In Toledo?
MANSOUR BEY: In Toledo. In Toledo. Yes, there was a Klan march in Toledo. However, at that time they were — they got — asked for a permit, and the permit was granted to them to gather in downtown Toledo; and that was — that worked because — I say "worked," meaning that they were able to isolate them; they had barbed wire around them. The professional counter-protesters who came in from out of town and elsewhere, they had a barricade around them, so the two never really got close together.
AMY GOODMAN: So you’re saying it wasn’t in a neighborhood?
MANSOUR BEY: It wasn’t in a neighborhood. In fact, it was a non-event. Because nobody or very few people from Toledo even bothered to go down there. So that shows that by them allowing these neo-Nazis to come into the community — into the neighborhood, into where people live, that was a mistake.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ma —
MANSOUR BEY: And the police chief recognizes that.
AMY GOODMAN: Mansour Bey, I want to thank you very much for being with us.
MANSOUR BEY: Let me say this, Toledo’s a good city. Toledo’s a good city. Please, come visit us. It’s a great city.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, thank you. Mansour Bey is a pastor at the First Church of God in Toledo.