The Truth About the Righteous Rebellion in Toledo
Special to Revolution, October 30, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Revolution received this correspondence from comrades in Detroit:
On Saturday, October 15, there was a major uprising in the northern Ohio city of Toledo against a Nazi march that was protected by police. (See Revolution #19). This uprising was slandered in the media as “gang violence.” A couple of us went to the neighborhood where the uprising took place to learn the truth of what happened.
North Toledo is close to the huge Chrysler Jeep plant in Toledo. It is a working class neighborhood, mainly Black but also Mexican and white. People here used to have factory jobs, but now unemployment is high. Like many similar neighborhoods, there are few stores and restaurants, one small park, and schools that look like they have seen better days. But this neighborhood drew national attention when more than 600 people protested a Nazi march through their neighborhood, drove the Nazis out, and fought police who protected the Nazis and brutalized protesters. As Revolution #19 pointed out, this Nazi march was “framed by the genocidal rants against Black people by major ruling class figures like William Bennett, who posed that 'if you wanted to reduce crime...you could abort every Black baby in this country,' and by the racist vilification of poor and Black people in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.”
Though the media, even the Toledo Journal, a Black newspaper, slandered the rebellion as “gang” and “mob” violence, the people we spoke to in North Toledo were very firm that they were “right to rebel” against the Nazis and the police. One man told us how police were going around in the neighborhood for days before the planned Nazi march, telling people that up to 200 Nazis were coming and warning them to “stay in your houses.” Jack Ford, the Black mayor of Toledo, had also told people to stay indoors and “ignore” the Nazis. City officials organized an “Erase the Hate” event miles away to try and keep people from confronting the Nazis. But people weren’t having it. Another man described the start of the uprising:
“Police told us the Nazi march was going to start at LaGrange (a business district blocks away), but then they came right into the center of the neighborhood. They say it was gangs out here, but it was grown people, kids, everybody, Blacks, whites, Mexicans. It wasn’t just people from this neighborhood. My cousins came from the East Side. People wanted to protest the Nazis. There were more than 400 people saying 'You all aren’t about to walk through our neighborhood.' Police were taking up for the Nazis, protecting them. They took them in the school (Woodward High school). Then the police came in with horses, knocking people around. Some kids started throwing stuff, and it escalated.”
Another young man pointed to a group of young kids playing nearby.
“The Nazis said they were coming for gangs. These kids aren’t even in a gang. The Nazis are a gang. They’re organized.” He spoke poignantly about the conditions in the neighborhood these youth face. “They’re tearing down schools. There’s only one park here, one store. I can see the police police pulling you over one time. But don’t pull me over five or six times.” He decried the media slanders of “gang violence.” Pointing to two friends, he said, “We grew up in this neighborhood. Our parents came up here, went to Woodward High. I used to work in a steel factory. Now who do you know who’s working?” He asked,”How are people poor when we make money? Why are people starving?”
His friend said,
“We live our lives. We have fun. We don’t have the money to go have fun far away, so we have fun in our own neighborhood. But if we walk a block away to the Polish neighborhood, they’ll call the police and the police will drag us out. That’s racial profiling.“
He, and several others we talked to, thought the Nazi march was a deliberate provocation by police to go after those they considered “gangs”--a taunt, like the recently revealed incident in Afghanistan where U.S. soldiers desecrated the bodies of dead Taliban to provoke Taliban soldiers out of hiding.
Another friend contemptuously dismissed arguments by the Mayor and others that the Nazis had a “consitutional right” to march.”What if we went to another neighborhood to protest?” He told us that since the rebellion, police have been rounding up youth on street corners and arresting them, calling them “rock throwers,” and that upwards of 100 youth, in groups of 20 a day, had been dragged out of the high school by police and arrested. We later found out that these youth were put on $10,000 bail without possibility of a 10% bond.
A woman who works in a local restaurant was furious about the Nazi march and the way the neighborhood youth were attacked. She said, ”You bring hate into someone’s backyard, what do you expect?“ She asked, “Why did no one come to support these kids? They were attacked and in survival mode. No one taught them how to react.” She said angrily, “They put the Nazis in the school, but they were sending kids home if they even wanted to talk about it. If someone gets killed, they have counseling for the students. These kids went through a traumatic experience, why didn’t they have counseling for them here?” She said these youth should have been “protected,” but “the police are punching them, beating them every day.”
A Muslim man we spoke with expressed pride in the rebellion.“They came to disrespect us, but they’ll think twice before they want to disrespect North Toledo.” He said police brutality had “never left, just different uniforms,” and connected it to the “military in the schools, recruiting for Amoco and BP’s war.” He said , “the young brothers and sisters pay a price for resistance, we are always punished for resistance.” He was angry that “there were not enough preachers and community leaders” standing with the people in the rebellion. He acknowledged that racist calls by ruling class figures like Bennett “carry a lot of weight,” but had a viewpoint we hear from a lot of people, that “it doesn’t make a difference who’s president” because some powerful and mysterious forces behind him, the “Illuminati,” are calling the shots. This view keeps people from seeing the actual danger posed by the Bush regime and the Christian fascist forces around them and that a serious struggle is necessary to drive them out of power.
We also met a woman in a beauty shop who concentrated those Black Christian forces who Bush is reaching out to and uniting around reactionary fundementalism. Unlike everyone else we talked to, she was arguing that people didn’t need to confront the Nazis because “God will take care of Black people.” She supported Bush on prayer in the schools and opposition to gay marriage. She argued that America is the greatest country in the world, the land of opportunity. We struggled with her to see the genocidal “package” she was lining up with. But even she, when asked if the rebellion was right or wrong, couldn’t come out and condemn it.
We talked to a local minister whose church is in the neighborhood where the rebellion took place. He said,
“The Nazi party came here to express white superiority. They said Blacks should leave the country. The youth today are a different generation. They have no respect for their elders. They felt like the police were protecting the Nazi party and they were.”
He felt like the youth had been “provoked” by the Nazis. On the one hand, he felt like there was a problem with “gang violence.” On the other hand, he decried the way Black people are treated by police, “the way they pull them over. Minorities get more tickets on certain highways. We can’t hide our identity. The problems we’re having, we need to come together on.” He talked about racism in the area, how there are neighborhoods like Ottawa Hills where police stop people from walking. “Who would they put their security on?”
While he was supportive of the Mayor, he was clearly sympathetic to the rebellion. He explained that far from the “random violence” portrayed in the media, people had targetted the Nazis, the police, and racist establishments in the neighborhood, like a local bar where “politicians went and Black people couldn’t go in there.” And he admitted that even people in his own church would have participated in the rebellion if they had been out there that day.
Several people we talked to in North Toledo took bundles of World Can’t Wait flyers to distribute and some were considering joining convergences in Detroit and Cleveland. The blatant state support of a Nazi march right into a mainly Black neighborhood is a sharp expression of the genocidal and fascist edge of governance today, and what makes the call for November 2 so urgent. The righteous rebellion of the people of North Toledo points to the power of resistance from those on the bottom of society, and how it affects the way broader strata in society see things. It should be popularized and supported. And what a difference it would make if this could be joined with the movement to drive out the Bush regime, and beyond that, a revolutionary communist movement to drive the whole system behind it from power!