On a May day, fascist Clevelanders, American supporters of Benito Mussolini, crowded around the entrance of the old St. Rocco church. They put on black shirts and prepared to parade along Trent Avenue to the new church on Fulton Avenue. A few hundred people gathered along the route to watch.As the fascists set off, four young men drove up in a car, got out and hurled bricks. Police later arrested them. Under police protection, the fascists marched into the new St. Rocco as the surrounding crowd grew to nearly 1,000 people. “Down with Mussolini!” and “Freedom for Italy!” rang out from the churn.
It was the second fascist-related eruption of violence in Cleveland in four months. In February, a meeting at West 65th Street and Detroit Avenue had also caused a scuffle. The tumult stretched nationwide. A day after the St. Rocco riot, two fascists were killed in New York City brawls spurred by fascist and Ku Klux Klan demonstrations. President Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump, was arrested during one fracas at a march held by white-robed Klansmen in Jamaica, Queens, The Washington Post reported in 2016.
Trump’s role at the demonstration remains unclear. Back in Cleveland, the fascisti cowered inside St. Rocco, The Plain Dealer reported, as the crowd outside refused to disperse. Eventually, they donned disguises of suit coats and overcoats, and slipped unnoticed into the throng, one by one.