(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. :-(