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Protestors March Against White Nationalists Following Charlottesville Tragedy

A crowd of approximately 300 stands in front of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Maumee to denounce hate and racism in the wake of Saturday’s violent exchange between members of an alt-right group and protesters in Charlottesville, Va.

BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — The ordinarily quiet residential streets near the Maumee Branch Library were filled with hundreds of protesters marching against white supremacy on Monday evening. The march, which began on the grounds of the library, wound its way through the streets of Maumee to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, then back to the library. The Rev. J. Paul Board, pastor of the church, said he did not have advance knowledge that the rally would take place on church property. The event was organized by community activists Beth Powder, Veralucia Mendoza-Reno and Ruth Leonard in response to the violent outbreak on Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., where white nationalists at a “Unite the Right” rally clashed with protesters. James Fields Jr., a 20-year-old man who moved to this area from Kentucky two years ago, is charged with driving his car into a crowd of protestors, killing one woman and injuring dozens more. Steve Fought, 63, of West Toledo came to the march after seeing the events unfold on television. “This is something that is so important and so fundamental to who we are as a people,” he said. “This is the time you have to come out and make yourself heard and make yourself seen and take a stand.” Fought said he “felt sick in his heart” when he learned that the driver of the car that slammed into the crowd had lived in the area. “I felt a personal responsibility that maybe I haven’t done enough to erase the hate. But at the same time, I know that he is the exception to the rule. A lot of people are saying, ‘Where are all the good people?’ and unfortunately it takes a tragedy to wake a lot of us up.” Rally organizer Mendoza-Reno, who addressed the crowd, said she was “happy to be among family.” “I am an immigrant from Peru, I am an Afro-Latina, I am black-identified, I am queer, I am so many things that they hate. But with you I feel safe. This is the home that I came to and this is the America that I came to. Thank you so much for this.” Also speaking was George Windau of North Toledo, who warned that alt-right groups such as the neo-Nazis could come back to the area. “The neo-Nazis in Charlottesville and their allies in the white supremacist movement think they won. They are emboldened. They will come back to Toledo,” he said. Windau, a UAW member who works at Jeep, says he was part of the movement that forced the neo-Nazis out of Toledo when they came to rally twice in 2005 and once in 2016. “We are on their radar. They are watching us right now because they know that they had a riot when they were here last time,” he said. Bowling Green State University student Neiko Alvarado felt compelled to attend the rally as a concerned citizen. “I felt it was my responsibility as a person of color to come here and demonstrate what I believe in and what I believe we should all fight against.” While the image of a car smashing into a crowd of protesters was horrible to see, Alvarado said he wasn’t shocked when it happened. “I have to be frank and say that I wasn’t surprised. I almost felt like it was business as usual and I know that’s a messed-up statement.” Maumee Mayor Richard Carr spoke briefly with library rally organizers, but didn’t feel it was appropriate to speak at the event. He remained in constant contact with the Maumee police department, which he said began preparing for the rally on Sunday evening when it was announced. Maumee police coordinated with Toledo police, the Lucas County Sheriff and the FBI to keep the event peaceful, he said. Extra police protection was needed, costing the city additional money; however, the mayor called that a necessary expense to ensure crowd safety. “We don’t have a choice – people have a freedom to assemble and our job is to have ample police on hand to provide protection,” he said. In the wake of the Virginia tragedy, Maumee has received national attention as the city in which Fields – the alleged driver in the deadly crash – resides. Apprehended in Charlottesville near the scene of the incident, he is currently in the custody of law enforcement. In Maumee, Carr began receiving calls on Saturday evening, when it was announced that Fields’ vehicle used in the crash was purchased from a Maumee dealer and had Lucas County license plates. ABC News in New York called Carr and National Public Radio reporters reached out to him in person. In addition, many residents contacted him to discuss it. Two years ago, Fields moved with his mother, Samantha Bloom, from Kentucky to Deer Ridge Apartments in Monclova Township. He later moved to a Toledo apartment complex located on a section of property surrounded by Maumee. On Monday, Carr issued a statement condemning the behavior at the rally in Charlottesville and extending sympathy to the residents and the family of Heather Heyer, who was killed. “The individual (James Fields) is not from Maumee,” Carr said. “What’s unfortunate is that people are saying, ‘What kind of city is Maumee?’ and I’m telling them that we take great pride in our city and we don’t hold those beliefs,” he said. Regarding Fields’ connection to the city, the mayor said that despite being criticized for it, he will continue setting the record straight when he can. “Maybe I am being too defensive, but that’s my job,” he said. “My job is to stand up for the people of Maumee. That’s what I was elected to do.”

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