What it’s like here

What happened in Wadsworth over the weekend is a sign of the rising tide all over Ohio. It shouldn’t be that way.
wadsworth tail gators
WADSWORTH, OH – MARCH 11: Local restaurant TailGators Sports Pub & Grille had to shift its hours due to the Neo-Nazi and White-Supremacist presence at nearby Memorial Park on March 11, 2022 in Wadsworth, Ohio. (Photo by Ford Fischer)

Editor’s Note: This story contains accounts of white Nationalism and Neo-Nazi ideologies throughout. Right Down Euclid does not or never will stand with them and would rather expose them for the vile, irredeemable people that they are. If you are able, support love and the LGBTQ+ community by donating to the B. Riley House – the nonprofit that these fascists tried to protest. You can also book Drag Story Hour for your next event or donate to the Rock-n-Roll Humanist Drag Queen Story Hour’s GoFundMe, where proceeds will be donated to the B. Riley House and the friends and family of the Q Night Club Tragedy in Colorado Springs.

On Saturday morning my hometown of Wadsworth, Ohio made the national news. It wasn’t because of a simple puff piece about a small, rural Ohio community doing something heartwarming. Well, it could’ve been that with Wadsworth local Aaron Reed coordinating a Drag Queen Story Hour and a fundraiser for a non-profit that supports the local LGBTQ+ community. The event was initially canceled due to threats and public backlash. Still, they could thankfully put on the event and read Elle the Humanist, a book written by a nine-year-old girl and her father who were tired of answering all the commonly asked questions about being the only humanists in a very conservative town.

Again, that would’ve been heartwarming and made you proud of Wadsworth, right? Unfortunately, that’s not what it’s like here or anywhere lately. You are correct to assume that many fascists came to the party to ruin the experience. The early arrivals included the Proud Boys, the White Nationalists, and the Patriot Front. Also present were white Nationalists and Neo-Nazis who weren’t members of any of the aforementioned groups at the time. Unfortunately, they more than likely joined soon after. Many in attendance shouted, “Heil Hitler” and a man on a loudspeaker chanted, “Sieg,” as protesters responded, “Heil!”

“Pedophiles get the rope!” chanted an armed neo-Nazi group waving swastika flags at the families attending the all-ages event. They also chanted “F**s go home!”, “Sieg Heil,” and “There will be blood!” while pointing stiff-arm salutes at attendees. Of course, there was also plenty of racism strewn throughout and Chris Pohlhaus, the leader of the Neo-Nazi Blood Tribe organization, even showed his face and appeared, to threaten and intimidate a truly harmless event for children. Sure, the other racists and fascists in attendance kept their distance from them and the Proud Boys avoided the Nazis. But, at the end of the day, they’re all cut from the same cloth.

“We’re all here for the same reason,” a ‘White Lives Matter Ohio’ racist said in a heated exchange.

“We are, but go over that way,” a Proud Boys white nationalist replied.

“They’re civic nationalists,” explained a different ‘White Live Matters Ohio’ fascist. “We’re white nationalists!”

In Northeastern Ohio, the Anti-Defamation League counted 85 reported hate, extremism, antisemitism and terror incidents in 2022 of the state’s total 185. Five years earlier there were only 17 reported incidents in Northeastern Ohio of the state’s total of 43. Much of this activity is graffiti, leafleting or other racist propaganda. But some of it is violence. Nevertheless, Northeastern Ohio has become fertile ground for white nationalism to grow and spread in the region and what happened in Wadsworth on Saturday is another sign of it.

It is indisputable that many of these people are odious — and not odious in the way liberals think of Republicans. We are responsible for using morally precise language when referring to this group (in this case, as “neo-Nazis” or white Nationalists), to contextualize their influence and unequivocally call them out. We should never glamorize them for political purposes either, mind you. But, it doesn’t just start and stop with myself or anyone. It goes all the way to the top of our elected officials. Unfortunately, it might be easier said than done at the end of the day.

Thanks to the efforts of these fascist organizations and the final days of Donald Trump’s presidency, normalizing political violence is more common than ever. It was most evident in the Republican National Committee’s decision to classify the violence of Jan. 6 as “legitimate political discourse.” But it is also apparent in the near-constant threat of violent clashes that hangs over practically every political protest or rally that draws national media attention, the one in Wadsworth included.

Although it may seem like the legal fallout from what happened on Jan. 6 has put these groups on their heels, there is a danger in assuming that action by law enforcement will be enough to suppress their violence and hatred in the long run. Unlike a more traditional political party or activist group, these organizations don’t necessarily view an indictment or a federal conspiracy charge as a rebuke to their political project. On the contrary, they see it as a reason to fight harder.

The fight is everywhere in their eyes too. They’ve become part of the online world that kids frequent. It’s not even the places that openly identify as homes for white supremacy. There’s Roblox, YouTube, gaming platforms and social media as well. Naturally, it’s scary to think about all the avenues these monsters have to influence the future where they groom children to fit their ideologies and hatred.

What can we do when considering how fast things are growing locally and nationally along with the lack of government support? The nihilist in me says this is just what it’s like here since, unfortunately, there isn’t a bonafide way to combat the rising tide. Again, you have to call a spade a spade and tell these people to their faces what they are: Nazis. That label is the proper way to identify everything they believe in and gives plenty to others who may not be aware. Sure, the fact that most of them wear masks to hide their faces (the irony isn’t lost on me) doesn’t help this. But, just knowing the signs and not feeding into their tactics is a start and, hopefully, there’s a way to snuff them all out for good in time.

You can also give back to the LGBTQ+ community and embrace love to combat the hate. Saturday’s event in Wadsworth was in support of the B. Riley House – a non-profit that hopes to enhance the social, spiritual emotional, and physical health of adult LGBTQ+ persons, that suffer from substance use disorder. You can also book Drag Story Hour for your next event or donate to the Rock-n-Roll Humanist Drag Queen Story Hour’s GoFundMe, where proceeds will be donated to the B. Riley House and the friends and family of the Q Night Club Tragedy in Colorado Springs.

Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at evan@downeuclid.com. He can also be found three to five times weekly on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.

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