Published October 15, 2005
TOLEDO, Ohio – A crowd protesting a white supremacists' march Saturday turned violent, throwing baseball-sized rocks at police, vandalizing vehicles and stores, and setting fire to a neighborhood bar, authorities said.
When Mayor Jack Ford (search) and a local minister tried to calm the rioting, they were cursed for allowing the march, and Ford said a masked gang member threatened to shoot him.
At least 65 people were arrested and several police officers were injured before calm was restored about four hours later.
Ford blamed the rioting on gangs taking advantage of a volatile situation. He declared a state of emergency, set an 8 p.m. curfew through the weekend, and asked the Highway Patrol for help.
"It's exactly what they wanted," Ford said of the group that planned the march, which was canceled because of the rioting.
At least two dozen members of the National Socialist Movement (search), which calls itself "America's Nazi Party," had gathered at a city park to march under police protection. Organizers said they were demonstrating against black gangs they said were harassing white residents.
The violence broke out about one-quarter of a mile away along the planned march route shortly before it was to begin. One group of men pounded on a convenience store, and others overturned vehicles. There was a report of a shooting but police hadn't found a victim, Police Chief Mike Navarre said.
About 150 police officers chased bands of young men through the area. Officers wearing gas masks fired tear gas canisters and flash-bang devices designed to stun suspects, but the groups continued throwing rocks and bottles. Several officers and firefighters suffered minor injuries, Navarre said. At one point, the crowd reached 600 people, officials said.
Finally, police marched shoulder-to-shoulder down the street shouting to people to stay inside, and the crowd of several hundred broke up.
At least 65 people were arrested on charges including assault, vandalism, failure to obey police and failure to disperse, Navarre said. He said the white supremacists had left hours earlier.
"We frankly could have made a couple hundred arrests easily," Navarre said. "We just didn't have the resources on hand to arrest all of them."
The mayor had appealed to residents the night before to ignore the march. He said the city wouldn't give the Nazi (search) group a permit to march in the streets but couldn't stop them from walking on the sidewalks.
When the rioting began, Ford tried to negotiate with those involved, but "they weren't interested in that." He said people in the crowd swore at him and wanted to know why he was protecting the Nazis.
They were mostly "gang members who had real or imagined grievances and took it as an opportunity to speak in their own way," Ford said.
"I was chagrined that there were obvious mothers and children in the crowd with them," he said.
Thomas Frisch, 76, said a large group of men destroyed the exterior of a gas station next to his home of 30 years.
"A whole big gang started to come in here. Next thing you know, they're jumping on the car. Then they overturned it. Then they started on the building, breaking windows, ripping the bars off," he said.
Louis Ratajski, 86, and his nephew, Terry Rybczynski, left Jim & Lou's Bar as a crowd gathered in front pelting police with rocks and breaking the windows. They climbed down a fire escape from the apartment where Ratajski lived over the bar and only later saw the fire on television.
"I was shaking. I feared for my life." Rybczynski said.
Keith White, a black resident, criticized city officials for allowing the march in the first place.
"They let them come here and expect this not to happen?" said White, 29.
A spokesman for the National Socialist Movement blamed police for losing control of the situation.