Activists have released details of a plan to counter-protest an Indiana-based Ku Klux Klan group, which scheduled a rally in Dayton later this month.
At a forum Thursday at Mt. Enon Missionary Baptist Church, members of the Better Dayton Coalition and the Dayton Police Department urged potential demonstrators to maintain their safety and consider staying home. Dayton Public Schools officials are also asking young people to steer clear of downtown Dayton during the May 25 Honorable Sacred Knights rally.
During the Klan rally, the Better Dayton Coalition plans to gather for a counter-protest across the street on North Main. Organizers suggest demonstrators wear red as a show of solidarity.
A big police presence is expected, and the coalition’s Yolanda Simpson is urging anyone who participates in counterdemonstrations to avoid violence or other activities that could lead to their arrest.
“Bottom line: Is there an assault, is there violence?” she says. “That's all they [police] care about. Your legal rights, you can talk about after the fact. For that moment, at that second on May 25 from 1-3, all they want to do is protect your persons. That's it.”
Around three dozen people attended the West Dayton forum. Dayton police officers told the crowd they’re coordinating with other Miami Valley law enforcement agencies on security plans.
Officials say they’ve studied the violence during the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville and say they plan to keep Klan members apart from counter-protesters by fencing off Courthouse Square. No one would be allowed to enter or exit the perimeter during the rally.
Better Dayton Coalition organizers say anyone who chooses to participate in counterdemonstrations should avoid bringing along elderly loved ones, people with limited mobility or children.
Dayton Public Schools is also discouraging students from attending any protests May 25. Over the last few weeks, some district schools have offered special high school assemblies, in partnership with the groups Black Lives Matter, and Racial Justice Now, and DPS parent Jo’el Jones.
Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli says they're aimed at educating students about the history of the Klan and peaceful protest in America.
“To try and understand this situation that's occurring in Dayton and why this group is a hate group and why our students should really stay away,” Lolli says.
As an alternative, she says, the district is advising students to protest using social media instead.