Anika Fields told council members at the Swanton Village Council meeting Aug. 12 that she had experienced racism in the Paigelynn Place subdivision off of Airport Highway.
Fields said she came to Council to ask for help in ending the racial harassment and injustices her family has experienced. “We’ve experienced racial epithets, having dogs commanded to attack us, blocked in our driveway, and profiled by police,” she said.
Fields said the events have had a substantial impact on her family and she fears retaliation.
“Each of you has the power to address these injustices,” Fields told Council members. “Each of you has the power to love, to drive out hate, and to hold all those accountable who are engaging in these hate crimes and violations of basic human rights. Each of you has the power to hold the authorities accountable.
“I refuse to believe that this is Swanton.”
Swanton Police Chief Adam Berg spoke later in the meeting, and said those in Paigelynn Place that Fields has accused of racial harassment have also alleged harassment.
“The police department has been nothing but professional,” he said. “If you want to go with the minority card, my name was Rodriguez, Berg is my adopted name, we have Sergeant (JD) Rahman here, so there’s no way we’re doing anything here that has to do with race.”
Conversations also included the need for body cameras for police officers, with Council members approving a motion to purchase. The money to pay for the cameras will likely come out of a contingency fund.
The Toledo Fair Housing Center and the Community Solidarity Response Network of Toledo have also become involved, and representatives from both spoke at the meeting.
“We want to keep a safe community on all sides,” said Washington Muhammad of the Community Solidarity Response Network of Toledo. “So we decided on a peace patrol. What we would do is just drive by, not get out of the car, not question, not engage anyone, but just drive by. Maybe that could deter people from engaging others. It seemed to be successful, but we can’t sustain forever.”
Christina Rodriguez, staff attorney at the Fair Housing Center said they have received other complaints from Paigelynn Place. “We can confirm that others have felt unwelcome and they have moved out of Swanton.”
She added that the Fair Housing Center has launched a campaign entitled “Welcome in My Backyard.” Rodriguez encouraged everyone to look at their biases and take steps to overcome those biases.
“Every day we each have the opportunity to reach out to someone who’s different from us, who looks different from us, with a different background, from a different community, and find a way to make that person feel welcome,” said Rodriguez.