this was forwarded to us.
Brief Report on Toledo anti-NSM Protest.
by C. Berneri
- 60-80 Nazis: NSM, Creativity Mvnt, Retaliator Skinheads
- 100-120 counter protestors: RWL(Revolutionary Workers League)/NWROC; anarchists; ISO; independent radicals; some Toledo residents; Peace Team (self appointed protest marshals)
- 700 cops and law enforcement (as reported on news): from three counties; FBI
- 29 arrests: 3-4 Nazi sympathizers; the remaining arrestees were antiracists
Our team arrived at 10:30am. We checked out downtown Toledo and the protest site. Lots of police activity, not much of anything else. Much of downtown around city government buildings were barricaded off. We walked around some and were stopped by police within 10 minutes. We were told to leave the area and stay on streets not within area around protest site. We went back to our car and decided to drive around north Toledo.
One site of interest was the Lucky Duck tattoo shop which is a known Nazi hangout. On our way we saw a group of 15 anarcho-antiracists assembled outside of a public library. Previous announcements reportedly from Toledo antiracists had asked for anti-Nazi protestors to assemble at public libraries. We stopped to talk to the anti-racists. Very soon afterwards (5 minutes or so) we saw three police cars drive by us. We dispersed. As we left in our car we saw one car load of antiracists stopped by police. We circled the block, drove back by and saw 5 cop cars surrounding the 1 antiracist’s car. We decided we should leave so as to not get pulled over, also. As we drove away we saw more cop cars driving towards the area.
We decided to meet up with other people and walk down to the protest area. Police had set up an elaborate system. People had to pass through metal detectors, be frisked, and digital photographed (using a video camera). People were not allowed to carry in bags or bottles, not even plastic water bottles. Since the City had won a ruling that allowed for arrests outside of the designated protest area, and be given a fine of up to $25,000, we decided that we should just go in to the protest area, otherwise we would have to leave all together. It was later reported to me that some protestors who decided not to go into the designated protest area, were arrested, presumably because they were not leaving the area quickly enough. I have not confirmed this, however.
The police had the protest area totally under control. The area was surrounded on three sides by lines of riot police. The Nazi’s area was the equivalent of one full city block away. The distance between the antiracist protestors and the Nazis also had obstacles separating them. This included two lines of riot police, mounted horses, an elevated street median covered in snow, and two rows of barricades. The horses were actually roaming in the designated protest area. The tactic was to push protestors backwards, away from the first barricade. This in effect created even more distance from the protestors to the Nazis. It would have been impossible for people to even throw a snowball at the Nazis, let alone get to them physically. The most protestors could do was yell at the Nazis, and by and large that is what most did.
Very early on, in the designated protest area, police on horse back disrupted a Black reporter/photographer. It appears he couldn’t get out of the way of the horses fast enough and was subsequently arrested for causing a disturbance and interfering with police action. Some NSM sympathizers were identified in the protest area. The sympathizers were verbally harassed by antiracists, but there was never a threat of physical assault. It was one male Nazi sympathizer who got upset and caused the initial scuffle when police tried to remove him form the crowd. He was arrested for misconduct, I think.
For the next 1.5 hours people hollered at the Nazis. Some chants were aggressive and said if the Nazis crossed the street then they would get “a boot up their ass”. But this was more or less people venting and blowing off steam. As I said, there was no chance of a confrontation breaking out, the police were in control. However, where the confrontation occurred, was with the police. Police on horse back kept trotting through the crowd. This was proceeded by police grabbling protestors, seemingly on an indiscriminant basis. People of color, notably Latino’s, were grabbed: people who were vocal, though passive physically, were targeted. One woman was arrested for “hitting a horse”. This occurred when the police charged in, and in the attempt to get away and not be trampled, brushed up against the horse. There was no punch thrown.
Towards the end of the rally, the police swooped in and started grabbling people. People were forced against bus terminal structures (shelters) by horses and riot police. People tried to get out of the way but were grabbed. Police tried to tazzer three people. People started to leave the designated protest area to avoid arrest. The crowd was split in three, with the center group taking the most arrests.
This isn’t going to go into the politics of the day, that deserves much greater attention than what can be offered here.
I think the city of Toledo wanted to set an example. Because of the previous anti-NSM, anti-Cop riot, the City wanted to make people feel intimidated and powerless. Anyone not within the confines of the designated area were arrested. People trying to leave were targeted. Meeting places and autonomous activity in other parts of the city was monitored and people were arrested. People in the designated protest area, abiding by the regulations set down by the police, were arrested. The City and police were in payback mode and wanted to re-establish their control.
The crowd in the protest area was, as stated, more or less passive. Some arguments occurred between antiracist and the few Nazi sympathizers, but never acts of physical intimidation or violence.
Post Toledo Oct.15th, there has been increased FBI and police activity in Southern Michigan. Michigan law enforcement agencies recently hosted an invite only conference on dealing with the increase of hate crimes and Nazi activity. Law enforcement has also been monitoring antiracist groups. With Toledo, it should be assumed that the FBI were targeting members of the crowd. Using the video stills taken from when people first passed through the metal detectors into the designated protest area, the FBI and police compared these to any previous mug shots or the footage from the Toledo Oct 15th riot. There has also been FBI activity looking into the ELF/radical environmental movement of Michigan. Given the proximity of Toledo to Michigan, it is not hard to assume that the FBI was scanning the crowd for known radicals: whether or not these individuals are connected to the ELF/environmental movement.
Still, many people were arrested who have no arrest sheet or warrants. I think that there was a combination of factors going on – random grabs along with specific targeting.
The struggle against the NSM and other fascists can not be won in a swift military defeat by either the antifascist forces or by the State. The political and social terrain that gives rise to the fascists will continue.
The Toledo Dec. 10th action illustrates that the State and radical antifascists are not ally’s but opposing forces. The state seeks to undercut radical, rank and file, and grassroots initiatives that challenge the authority and hegemony of the system. The struggle against the fascists, against racist movements (both autonomous and originating from within the framework of capitalist society), and against political authoritarianism and repression continues to be a protracted struggle. We must organize accordingly.
Dec. 10th in Toledo was a defeat for the radical antiracist forces, we were out maneuvered – we accepted and moved on the terrain laid out and controlled by the State. With our accepting of their terms, we fell into their web and suffered arrests. There was little we could do, unless we did as the authorities said and “stayed away”, which for us is not a desired option.
Toledo shows why we need to develop our abilities and capacity to set the terms of engagement. We need to build a popular, mass and determined response to the fascists; a response that itself is outside and against the system.
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DOCUMENTS (mostly on other sites)
- An American National Bolshevik (Loren Goldner)
- Anti-Repression, Anti-Fascist Strategizing Suggestions (mamos206)
- Anti-Semitism and the Revolutionary Right (Kersplebedeb)
- Barack, Badiou, and Bilal al Hasan (Don Hamerquist)
- Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience (Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier)
- Exodus and Reconstruction: Working-Class Women at the Heart of Globalization (Bromma)
- Fascism & Anti-Fascism (Don Hamerquist)
- For Women Only: After Anti-War Movements win or lose in Iraq...there's still Women (Butch Lee)
- Notes on Women and Right-Wing Movements (Matthew Lyons)
- The Shock of Recognition (J. Sakai)
- Two Ways of Looking at Fascism (Matthew Lyons)
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