Monday, October 17, 2005

Race Riots in my Backyard

(Well, not really my backyard, but close enough.)

On Saturday afternoon, a racially-motivated riot broke out in Toledo. Toledo is about 30 miles south of where I live. Tirithien lives there, on the opposite side of town from the place the riots took place. So I am down in Toledo with some frequency. I wouldn't say I have my finger on the pulse of the city, as the saying goes, but I'm at least close enough to see that it's breathing.

As far as I can tell from the garbled news reports and the little bit of info I'd heard in advance, a neo-Nazi group had planned a protest in a "racially mixed" neighborhood. The protest was supposedly motivated by a disagreement between a black family and a white family, but I haven't found any news reports that describe the nature of this dispute or how it might have come to the attention of this neo-Nazi group.

The people who live in the neighborhood were (understandably, in my opinion) upset about these plans, and counter-protests were planned. Unfortunately, somehow, somehow, and no one seems to know how, the counter-protests devolved into violence. Fires and looting. The neighborhood was a war zone.

And then the neo-Nazis didn't even show up.

I imagine them sitting at home laughing at the fiery images on the news. "See, we were right!" they can say. "Look how they rose to our bait!"

Now, I am a firm believer in free speech in public places. I'm an ACLU member, and it's one of my central beliefs that people should be allowed to speak what they truly believe. But there's got to be a balance somewhere between statement of belief and statements carefully calculated to inflame tension and violence. Besides that, I'd feel a great deal of grim satisfaction if I were able to muzzle the neo-Nazi leaders and leave them voiceless for awhile.

How does this happen, this devolution into violence in protest situations? There have been many protests and counter-protests in the world which don't become riots. What causes certain ones to explode in violent flame?

Everytime I think humans might actually be evolving into something better.... then something happens. :-(


naive-no-more said...

I believe in the freedom of speech, but we need a little swatch of iron curtain in this violent, self-loving, muckraking society we've so politely dubbed freedom. Freedom shouldn't be the right to spout off haphazzardly with no regard to the chaos and damage it so often inflicts.

Rather, freedom should be a responsibilty that comes with the right to have and to voice your own opinion.

Bougie Black Boy said...

wow. very crazy. . . I want to know more about this. These riots are always intriguing in regard to the fact that what initiates them is most always something small compared to what happens in the end with a riot.

Bainwen Gilrana said...

It may well have been something tiny that set it off. It was told in ancient days that the Battle of Camlann, in which King Arthur was killed, was set off because a warrior drew his sword to kill a snake, and the opposing side, who couldn't see the snake, took this as a violation of the truce they were under.

It could well have been something tiny that set off a chain reaction of violence and fire.

I will keep an eye on the local (and semi-local) news and see if I can find any more details about what might have started things off and why there was so much tension in the neighborhood in the first place.

Tirithien said...

Why is there the tension? That is one I can answer.

I know the area they're talking about. Lagrange/Dexter is in the heart of the "Polish Village". It's a mixed neighborhood- once hard-line Polish, now a blend. Problem is, it's always been a tense spot.

There still lies a seedling of mistrust there, between the races. There is still an edge of "I can't trust you, so I'll be watching you". That area, though, is also surrounded on three sides by some of the poorest and worst-condition homes in town.

So, what have we? We have a group of Neo-Nazis, a group of old-line Polish that mistrust the new way things are, and a large group of poor African-American. What set it off was likely very small, but there didn't need to be much.

clew said...

I will add the shortest comment to date: there will always be idiots in the world.

Bougie Black Boy said...

and idiots are the ones who are the infrastructure of america, sadly.