10/17/2005

Ohio police say they were prepared for riot that seriously injured officer

By JOHN SEEWER
Associated Press Writer

TOLEDO, Ohio— The city was calm Monday after weekend violence triggered by a white supremacist group's march along the sidewalks of a racially mixed neighborhood.

A melee broke out Saturday when protesters confronted members of the National Socialist Movement who had gathered at a city park.

"They do have a right to walk on the Toledo sidewalks," Mayor Jack Ford said Sunday.

An angry mob, some of them gang members, threw baseball-sized rocks at police, vandalized vehicles and stores, and set fire to a bar. Officers wearing gas masks fired tear gas canisters and flash-bang devices designed to stun suspects, only to see the groups reappear nearby and resume throwing rocks and bottles. More than 100 people were arrested and one officer was seriously injured.

The march was called off after the rioting started.

Police Chief Mike Navarre said Monday there had been no trouble since Saturday.

"After the four-hour disturbance ended, we have not had a problem in the neighborhood since," Navarre said on CBS's "The Early Show."

Much of the anger erupted because residents were upset that city leaders allowed about a dozen white supremacists to walk through the neighborhood and shout insults.

"They don't have the right to bring hate to my front yard," said Terrance Anderson, who lives near the bar that was destroyed. Three other businesses were looted or damaged.

Others joined the mayor in saying the neo-Nazis had the right to march. "Too bad the people couldn't ignore them," said Dee Huntley.

Police arrested 114 people on charges including assault, vandalism, failure to obey police, failure to disperse and overnight curfew violations.

Twelve police officers were injured, including one who suffered a concussion when a brick came through a side window of her cruiser and hit her on the head.

Arraignments began Monday morning in Municipal Court for some of those arrested. A judge set bail at $10,000 for defendants accused of aggravated riot.

Donna Reid said two of her sons faced felony charges. She wasn't sure why they were charged and wished they had stayed away.

"They weren't thinking, wrong place and wrong time," she said.

The disturbances were confined to a 1-square-mile area, police said. At one point, the crowd grew to about 600 people.

Nearly all of the violence ended by late afternoon Saturday, and police set an evening curfew for the city through Monday morning.

The neighborhood northwest of downtown once was a thriving Polish community. Now it's a mix of Hispanic, Polish and black residents, many of them poor living in modest homes.

Police began hearing at the middle of last week from officers on the street that gangs planned to descend on the neighborhood, the police chief said.

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

However, he said the protest lasted longer and was more intense than expected.

Authorities delayed releasing the route of the march so protesters wouldn't have advance notice of where the demonstration would take place.

Community leaders organized an "Erase the Hate" rally to draw people away from the march. And the mayor spoke to 2,000 people at a Baptist church Friday night, urging them to ignore the neo-Nazis.

A spokesman for the National Socialist Movement accused police of losing control of the situation.

The neo-Nazi group came to the city, which relies heavily on the auto industry and has high unemployment in minority neighborhoods, because of a dispute between neighbors, one white and the other black.

"This is not a police problem," Navarre said. "This is a social problem."

 

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