Published October 16, 2005
TOLEDO, Ohio – Police began receiving word 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, the police chief said Sunday.
The riot broke out Saturday when protesters confronted members of the National Socialist Movement (search) who had gathered at a city park. Rioters threw baseball-sized rocks at police, vandalized vehicles and stores, and set fire to a neighborhood bar, authorities said. More than 100 people were arrested and one officer was seriously injured.
Officers who work in the area reported that gang members were planning to turn out in force, and authorities made plans to handle any disturbances, Police Chief Mike Navarre (search) said at a news conference Sunday morning.
"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 added the protest lasted longer and was more intense than expected.
About two dozen members of the supremacist group, which calls itself "America's Nazi Party," had gathered at a city park just before noon Saturday to march under police protection. The march was called off after rioting started.
Authorities want to determine why protesters turned their anger toward police after the Nazi group left, Lucas County Sheriff James Telb (search) said. Officers wearing gas masks fired tear gas canisters and flash-bang devices designed to stun suspects, only to see the groups reform and resume throwing rocks.
People were "highly angry over the idea that someone from outside the community could come in and insult them" in their neighborhood, Mayor Jack Ford (search) said.
Twelve officers were injured, including an officer riding in her cruiser who suffered a concussion when a brick came through a side window and hit her in the head, Lt. Ron Pfeifer said Sunday.
A state of emergency remained in effect through the weekend. About 200 officers patrolled the neighborhood overnight, Navarre said, and police reported no problems. Another overnight curfew was to be in effect starting at 8 p.m. Sunday.
City officials stressed the disturbances were confined to a 1-square-mile area. Police arrested 114 people on charges including assault, vandalism, failure to obey police, failure to disperse and overnight curfew violations.
The neighborhood northwest of downtown, full of tree-lined streets and well-kept brick homes, once was a thriving Polish community. But within the last decade it's become home to poorer residents.
A spokesman for the National Socialist Movement blamed police for losing control of the situation.
The neo-Nazi group became interested in the neighborhood because of a white resident's complaints to police about gang violence, Bill White, a group spokesman, said earlier this month.
WilliAnn Moore, president of the Toledo NAACP (search) chapter, had said she worried the march would exacerbate an already tense situation, and urged black youths to ignore the demonstrators. Local leaders were taking steps "so this doesn't turn into some kind of race war," she said.
Only a few people were out Sunday morning raking leaves, walking dogs in a park or going to church.
"This never should have happened," 80-year-old Ed Kusina, who has lived in the neighborhood nearly all his life, said Sunday. "They should have never let them march here."
Rioters set fire to 86-year-old Louis Ratajski's neighborhood pub, Jim & Lou's Bar, but he and his nephew, Terry Rybczynski, escaped the flames.
"I was shaking. I feared for my life," said Rybczynski said.
Keith White criticized city officials for allowing the march: "They let them come here and expect this not to happen?" said White, 29.