Saturday, October 15, 2005

A Very Bad Day For Our City

10:30am - I report to the Cherry St. Police Substation (CAPS) to monitor the preparations for the white supremacist march through the Lagrange neighborhood. Councilman Ashford joins me and a lone officer, we listen intently to the chatter on the police radio.

11:00am - At least 200 counter-protesters are reported. The police have 150 personnel deployed - bikes, riot gear, horses, helicopters. "First rock thrown," I heard an officer report over the radio. "Hold the line, stay close, do not go into the crowd." It was clear to me that our officers were concerned for their safety before the planned march even started - and yet they clearly sounded organized, professional and determined.

12:00 noon - The deputy chief announced over the radio that the Nazi rally was cancelled. Another officer ordered everyone to put on gas masks as the tear gas was about to be launched in an attempt to disperse the crowd. The Mayor arrived with his staff from the field. We listened to the radio a bit longer. "We've got a man with a firearm." Later, all units were instructed to return to the command center to update their tactical plan.

12:30pm - Joined the Mayor at Wilson Park, north of Woodward, at the command center. He went in for briefing with the Chief, Sheriff, and Fire Chief. I took in the scene: Several TARTA buses lined up to house prisoners. 20 police cars lined up. Multiple helicopters circling. Various vehicles with windows smashed: a fire truck, two police cars, the FOX 36 Jeep. Heather Miller had to drive her cameraman out - he took a whiff of tear gas.

For the next couple hours police would file in & out, grabbing water, getting new instructions - or new vehicles or equipment and heading back into the situation. From where I stood, I couldn't see much of the melee. Estimates on the size of the crowd had increased to 500 or 600. The Mayor put out the call for community leaders to gather at 4:00pm for a briefing, especially ministers and youth mentors.

Mayor Ford, Chief Bell, Pastor Mansour Bey, Lagrange activist Ramon Perez and mayoral staffer Alan Bannister left the command center about 3:00pm to walk into the crowd and attempt to negotiate a peaceful resolution. They were advised that there were angry people with sticks, rocks, and guns - and that they would be going in without uniformed officers. I got a clump in my throat, and told Bannister I thought it was a bad idea - that the Mayor and company were risking their personal safety. They grabbed a bullhorn and walked two blocks, through the police barricade, and into a crowd of hundreds. I was told that the Mayor was confronted and threatened. A man with a face mask and a revolver in his belt. They were surrounded by angry people with sticks and stones, and that it was difficult to talk with everyone shouting questions at the Mayor. The Mayor & co. were in there for 45 minutes listening, attempting to settle folks.

In the meantime, I had called my council colleagues to brief them and invite them to the 4:00pm briefing at CAPS. On my way back to Lagrange Street we noticed Carty, with tee-shirted volunteers and yard signs, working Manhattan residences as though nothing unusual was happening.

The 4:00pm press briefing started late, when the Mayor, Pastor Bey, Chief Bell, and Bannister made it back - it lasted over an hour & included some tough questions and tough answers. That there wasn't more bloodshed is a testament to the professionalism of our local public safety forces.

The crowd explained to the Mayor they were upset that the City let Nazi's into the neighborhood, and that the police protected the Nazi's and "pushed around" locals, then fired tear gas and flash bombs. There were reports that anarchists and skin heads worked to rile up the crowd against the Nazi's AND the police. The residents who looted and fought police need to take a long look in the mirror - Toledoans, Americans, are better than that. All that those sad, pathetic white supremacists deserved was laughter and pity - not violent, self-defeating responses. The actions of many in Toledo today were nothing short of appalling. Those who broke the law should be prosecuted to its fullest extent, and I'm pleased to report that the investigations will include reviewing video and film to identify perps.

The process of healing will take time. We all need to take responsibility, set aside the easy explanations and assumptions, and really think about what was exposed today. How will today's events shape race relations, our approach in our schools, the strategies, tactics and resources of law enforcement and community organizing, the responsibility of parents and other authority figures, and what of leadership throughout city ranks that responds to the unexpected and dangerous with courage.

Heard that Jerry Seinfeld had a field day with Nazi jokes tonight at Toledo's Stranahan Theatre - I'd love to have been there.

21 Comments:

Blogger Lisa Renee said...

Sigh...Frank I agree it was a sad moment in our history and I totally agree with your statement regarding those of us who are parents. I know you saw what I wrote today and what I have written earlier on this issue.

I don't agree with you as to your support of Jack Ford being re-elected, however? It is not his fault solely for what happened today and I think we all do our city and county a major disservice if we try to finger point just at our local politicans for what happened today.

The NSM came here with the purpose of using us for their agenda and they won. However as I wrote on my own blog? It's a momentary thing. We can get beyond this and no matter our minor differences as to the mayoral race? We agree on that so we will end up all winning in the long run. Unless? We give up and neither you nor I nor many of us will do that.

We can unify or we can let this divide us. As I stated on my own blog? We have a choice Toledo, so let's do it right. I'm counting on you.

2:02 AM  
Blogger Lisa Renee said...

I also do have to add Frank...if you did see Carty where you state it was not in that direct area as a first point. As a second point what did you want him to do? Go in and try to take over from Jack Ford?

You should give him credit for not getting involved in this at that time. Be anti-Carty if you have to Frank but be fair. Alot of other politicians would have really ran with this and Carty didn't.

2:18 AM  
Blogger -Sepp said...

The most shameful part of all this is that the Nazis came to our city to "expose black crime" and drove away laughing and unharmed as black criminals played right into the nazis hands and did exactly what the nazis "predicted" they would do. I think that at one point the whole riot had nothing to do with nazis, race, or even hate in general but, was just seen by the local street trash as a great excuse to destroy property, assault citizens and,loot stores. These scumbags have embarrassed the city on an international scale. My relatives in Europe called and were very concerned about what was going on and they were seeing it played out on CNN. I hope this is an eye opening wake up call for the mayor who has been living in gang denial since disbanding the gang task force. Attracting new businesses and families to Toledo just went from hard to damn near impossible. Toledo will wear this shame stain for a long time to come.

4:58 AM  
Blogger BrianInVero said...

Good Morning Frank,

I just have one question concerning this issue, and seeing you're the ONLY politican with immediate access, please give an honest answer, please.

Why wasn't this situation addressed in July, when the punk kids put those flyers out?

Having grown up in North Toledo, near Chase and Columbus, we've endured this same issue back in the early 80 from the punks off Suder Ave would come into my neighborhood, causing all kinds of commotion. It's obvious these "gang-related" issues have been on the back burner for years. I do have to admit, the flyer distribution was a first that I've heard, ever. Seeing there was so much advanced warning, why wasn't this addressed?

6:56 AM  
Blogger jim said...

i smell a bad fish with this whole thing

7:16 AM  
Blogger billy said...

" On my way back to Lagrange Street we noticed Carty, with tee-shirted volunteers and yard signs, working Manhattan residences as though nothing unusual was happening."

Frank - Carty's a private citizen. What were all of us private citizens urged to to in re this issue?

in this article: http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051014/OPINION02/510140311

the Blade says "Ignore the Haters".

So now you once again denigrate your future boss because he led by example. If he'd have been down there with a bullhorn you'd have said he was getting in the way, and if he'd have been there for the Erase the Hate rally, you'd have said he was using tragedy for political gain.

In reading your calendar of events, what function, other than observer, did you perform?

8:26 AM  
Blogger liberal_dem said...

The NAZI rally and the resulting melee is not political at all and I would hope that smarter folks would realize this and leave the politicking alone. I doubt if Carty will take my advice, though, as his temperament, as we all can attest, often reacts before wisdom.

To me it was courageous of Ford to wade into the crowd and attempt to quell the rioters. That took guts, plain and simple. No discredit to the mayor here from my vantage point.

One disturbing site from the video tape was the mounted patrol. I know about this group of officers from first hand experience. They often act in an aggressive nature, with a result of stimulating further anger. When Cheney came to Tam O'Shanter during the 04 elections, these same Toledo horse patrol officers were there and inflamed the crowd wit their 'tough guy' [akin to cowboy] tactics.

The video tape from yesterday showed this group ridding their horses up on private property, shoving the peaceful protesters far back from the street. This was not only unnecessary and unlawful, but antagonizing. To me and I would think to those protesters the message sent was: 'don't even think of causing trouble here!' This macho show of force surely raised the question: who's freedom of speech is more protected here? Clearly to the black protesters the answer came on the hoof steps of the horses.

Frank- I wonder if the City Law Department ought to file charges against the NAZI group for inciting a riot. Wouldn't it be sweet to see these bigots on trial in Toledo Municipal Court?

The most troubling part of this is the impending reaction of the racists among our citizens, both black and white. I would imagine [and hope] that the black pastors will be preaching to their congregations on this very issue. Surely the local NAACP and other black leadership organizations are in full swing this morning with brainstorming ideas and action plans. Hopefully neighborhood leaders in the black community are involved in a calming-down strategy.

However, I do worry about the white response, especially the far right-wingers who live in our community. One can only wonder what these folks talked about last evening and on into today. As I do not know of nor associate with this group of whites, I can only speculate that the subsequent rioting by the black youths gave quite a boost to their already fixed racial biases. In fact the only 'public' clues as to the reaction of these right-wing bigots might be found on the blogs. I would imagine that Bob Frantz's blog would give voice to these bigots so, if one had the stomach to do so, one could read their minds over there. Surely Mr. Frantz will have primed the pump for them and no doubt a favorite poster there named, appropriately, White African American, will sum it all up for us. Further, no doubt that Frantz's Monday morning show on WSPD will be a treasure trove of white bigotry for all of us to behold.

One final point. Why did the city of Toledo permit the Nazis to march in that hotbed neighborhood? It seems to me that it wouldn't take a whole lot of speculation to imagine the scenario unfolding just as it did. Had I been given a chance for input on this 'march,' I would have required the 'freedom of speech' spectacle to take place in downtown Toledo only. Two advantages would have been gained by selecting this venue: first, it would have diffused the heated emotions of a neighborhood setting and, second, crowd control would have been much easier in the caverns of a downtown setting.. In fact, the best site would have been the riverfront in Promenade Park with the river offering a perfect blockade to the east.

Frank- did Council discuss this march at all? If so were there objections to its location?

9:35 AM  
Blogger runnindog said...

you are unbelievable frank. never, ever stop playing politics right? even now when the city is in turmoil and race riots are being carried out you find a way to stump for votes for ford. blaming carty for not getting in the middle of thngs is just stupid. if he had done anything you woud have criticised him for trying to steal the mayors power and causng a dstraction. but you post here praising ford and criticising carty instead of tlking aboutt how to fix the race problem. your an embarsasment to toledo frank.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Frank said...

I report, you decide, runnindog.

I've walked Bronson & those street numerous times, talking to Polish, black, latinos about what's going right, and what's going wrong, with their neighborhood. Got some allies cleaned, a demolished house removed, financial help for small businesses in & around Lagrange, improved facilities at Zablocki, debate on funding for Lagrange Development Corp. I've also heard about racial problems and misunderstandings. I've joined troubled young people from that neighborhood on intervention experiences.

I'm comfortable reporting on the actions of our fire & police, and the two men who seek to lead this city for the next four years. I'm sorry your that easily offended, runnindog.

10:44 AM  
Blogger BrianInVero said...

The most troubling part of this is the impending reaction of the racists among our citizens, both black and white. I would imagine [and hope] that the black pastors will be preaching to their congregations on this very issue. Surely the local NAACP and other black leadership organizations are in full swing this morning with brainstorming ideas and action plans. Hopefully neighborhood leaders in the black community are involved in a calming-down strategy.

The Dexter Boyz took the time and effort to print flyers which were distributed throughout this neighborhood. They printed flyers. It wasn't like they stealthily tip-toed into the neighborhood.

They (the Dexter Boyz) made the press back in late July. Where was the NAACP when this fish reared it's ugly head? Where were the African-American religious contigency? You can't lay TOTAL blame on the politicans, I can only speculate that our black church leaders waited until SOMETHING happened where the press would be easily available, they donned their silk cloths and hats and set about to be interviewed.

It disgusts me the opprotunists which took advantage of this tragedy. I truly would hate to be the only Toledoan, that happens to live outside the area, that could see this debacle comming.

It's as if someone "hoped" the situation would escalate. From Mr Szych's arrest to the publicity behind it, from the police's "efforts" to protect the residents of the neighborhood instead of twisting the screws on the parents of these freaks. Szych's lived there over 30 years, Frank. How old are you? That's a long time to live somewhere and have some punks vandalize your home after investing his life in that dwelling.

Look what happens when you sweep stuff under the rug...makes for one ugly mess after a while.

10:45 AM  
Blogger BrianInVero said...

Oh, and Frank? I'd try to remember not to lean against the doorjamb during a press conference that's televised nationally. Your mother will see you and you'll get chastized for your posture.

You can lean against a chair behind you, the TV cameras won't pick it up.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Frank said...

long day Brian, long day

10:56 AM  
Blogger BrianInVero said...

Frank, it was stressful watching it from the deck here in Florida. Heck, even my mother in law in England called me out from underneath my car to tell me there was a press conference today. So now Toledo's one square mile debacle is worldwide.

I just hope that Toledo begins a "pro-active" program, instead of continuing with the "re-active" program.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Earl_from_Ohio said...

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution (The Bill of Rights) says:

"Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble"

The problem is that we cannot, in advance, declare these Nazi marches to be prohibited.

And they know it.

They exploit the very Constitution that they seek to destroy.

On the other hand, It seems like there is a core group of "professional protesters" who show up wherever the Nazis hold an event. Before the event, these multi-pierced and tattooed twenty-somethings always make some vague statements to the effect that "violence isn't necessary."

And then at the first opportunity, they act out-- violently.

They have no concern for the City of Toledo-- and they don't care about the problems of a once beautiful and vibrant old neighborhood. They are just as blindly fanatic as the fascists they oppose.

They formed the "primer' that ignited yesterdays violence- just as they intended and just as the Nazis wanted. How pathetic.

Meanwhile, today the Nazis are gone and the protesters are off to their next protest or music festival or something.

While WE have to clean up and rebuild.

ALlow me to say this: racism is still alive in America. It continues to corrupt vital institutions of our national life. For all of the progress that we have made, there is no "level playing field." Not yet.

The result is a grinding and entrapping lack of equal opportunity; and ultimately, poverty and violence.

To return control of Toledo to a clique of crooked old white men, is NOT the answer.

Mayor Ford showed extraordinary courage in the face of a tragedy that was not of his making.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Jason Sonenshein said...

Billy said:

So now you once again denigrate your future boss because he led by example.

Billy, a mayor is not a councillor's boss. A councillor's bosses are the constituents who elected him or her, just as a mayor's bosses are the constituents who elected him or her. The executive and the legislature are two seperate, equal branches of government.

12:41 PM  
Blogger liberal_dem said...

My wife and I just finished watching author and educational critic Johanathan Kozol speak live on C-Span 2. His newest book, Shame of the Nation, a critique of the dismal inner-city schools in America. His passion is to challenge America to realize how much akin to apartheid our inner city schools really are and do something to fix them.

As he went on with example after example of how we are failing to help the children of these schools, I thought of the black youth we saw on TV yesterday in North Toledo. How have we failed these children and what can be done about it?

I then thought of what would be happening on talk radio tomorrow morning here in Toledo and across the nation. Right-wing jocks feeding their bigoted audiences bits and pieces of racial bait and waiting for the phone lines to light up.

Two men behind a microphone speaking of problems in the inner cities of America. Two radically different audiences. Two totally different objectives. And we wonder about the racial and economic divide in America?

8:37 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

Frank you are an absolute idiot just like Ford. The current administration has done nothing positive for this city. Using the police layoffs to scare people into higher taxes and a city tow lot was absurd. If you had any brains you would stop supporting Jack Ford, look into the mirrow and realize that you can still make a difference and change the way you do politics in this city. If you, the mayor and the rest of city council would pay more attention to the city services and what they need, maybe this city would have less gang problems and economically pick up.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:41 PM  
Blogger historymike said...

There is a lot more going on here than the out-of-control gangbangers, and it will take much more than simplistic "lock 'em up," knee-jerk responses for Toledo to move forward.

I spent about 16 hours on the streets of North Toledo Saturday, taking pictures and interviewing anyone who would talk (and there were plenty of takers on that front), while dodging tear gas cannisters and chunks of concrete.

I don't wish to take up too much space here; I will offer my observations over the next few days on my and in the Toledo Free Press.

11:07 PM  
Blogger Robert B. Scott, esq. said...

Frank,

Your account of Satuday's riot was great.

Essays like that are why I keep logging into your blog.

Taking the occasional political shot at you is just a bonus.

Thanks you, for your insights and accessiblity.

12:01 PM  
Blogger neocon said...

Jack Ford's Tow Lot Money Tree is alive and well. Hours of operation do not take into consideration that folks that have the bad fortune of having an accident end up paying excessive amounts of hard earned money just so city workers can have a job and the city can squeeze more money out of its citizens. The lot closes at 5 PM. The fee for a tow is $85 plus $12 per day while in storage. It takes about 2 hours to retrieve your vehicle because the police a the lot do not know what they are doing. After an accident, victims are not given a choice of tow personnel such as private towing or AAA. The police tow truck swoops in and grabs the car without giving a choice to the victims. Then the victim has to pay additional tow fees to take the damaged car to a dealer for repairs. What a joke!

10:14 AM  

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