Dayton police and community officials are urging anyone planning to counterprotest this month’s rally by an Indiana-based Ku Klux Klan group to take safety precautions.
More than three dozen residents met Tuesday night at the westside Boys and Girls Club of Dayton to hear about the city’s preparations and share their concerns about the upcoming so-called Honorable Sacred Knights’ rally.
Police Chief Richard Biehl told participants the department has, “done their homework and checked with other cities,” as they map out security plans for the May 25 Courthouse Square event.
Biehl says the department has consulted with law enforcement agencies in Charlottesville and other cities around the country that have seen recent incidents of mass violence.
“And I think the one thing that came clear as a message, you can’t be too overprepared for something like this. So, really the message was be well-prepared, think this through and have a plan,” the chief says.
The police department is expected to release more specific details about anticipated street closures and other security logistics, including how the rally may impact public transit, closer to May 25.
Dayton Community Police Relations coordinator Jared Grandy led Tuesday's meeting.
While some top city officials continue to encourage residents to avoid downtown on the day of the rally, Grandy says people who choose to join counterprotests should consider enrolling on free, upcoming deescalation trainings.
"We understand the risks that are associated with putting yourself in the middle of this kind of environment. However, if you feel strongly as a community member, a strong sense of duty of keeping your fellow community members safe, then we encourage you to participate in that duty," he says. "We want to make sure that if you feel it necessary to respond and participate in that way then you have our support."
Several marshal’s training workshops are being offered, including one from the United States Department of Justice Community Relations Service on May 22 at Central State, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on the West Campus. More information can be found at the Community Police Relations website.
Another is being offered by the group Showing Up for Racial Justice Greater Dayton, or SURJ: Wednesday, May 15 at 5:30 p.m., at Mckinley United Methodist Church in Dayton.
Earlier this week, the city of Dayton announced an agreement settling the city's March lawsuit against the Madison, Indiana-based Honorable Sacred Knights over the white supremacist group’s planned rally. The suit alleged the rally posed a danger to the community.
A consent decree filed in Montgomery County civil court stipulates terms the group has agreed to, including that members will not wear paramilitary or tactical gear, or bring long guns or assault rifles, bats or shields.
People with valid permits would be allowed to carry sidearms at the rally, and cover their faces with masks. Members of the group told city officials they do not plan to wear hoods, but may opt for sunglasses and bandanas instead.
City Attorney Barbara Dosek says only identified Honorable Sacred Knights members will be allowed to participate in the group’s rally.
“I'm grateful that we could get some of these terms agreed to so that safety is a priority and continues to be the focus of protecting the community and its residents," Dosek told reporters. "And so I'm thankful that we were able to get things in there along the lines of prohibitions from bringing the rifles long guns, et cetera."
She says police will shut down the rally if other individuals or groups attempt to join the gathering or incite violence.
At Tuesday's meeting in West Dayton, police officials stressed that anyone who attempts to force their way into or out of the restricted rally area, incites violence, blocks sidewalks or violates other laws could risk arrest.
The Better Dayton Coalition is organizing a counterprotest to be located across the street from the Klan-group's rally on North Main.
Organizers are asking participants to wear red as a show of community solidarity against hate.
A Better Dayton Coalition includes Black Lives Matter Miami Valley, and six other grassroots and faith-based community organizations, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the New Black Panther Party.
A number of Dayton-area groups are organizing alternative events outside of downtown on May 25.
Dayton officials launched the site as part of a new campaign the city is calling United Against Hate Month, May 13 to June 13, 2019, which the city says is intended to, "to help connect people who want to peacefully respond to the hate group."
Residents are encouraged to upload their own events to the site's calendar.
"Hate is an open attack on tolerance, decency, and overall community health," says Human Relations Council Executive Director Erica Fields. "We must not ignore it, but instead take action, unite against it, and create opportunities for sustained movement. United Against Hate is a platform to help uplift the community as we work toward inclusion, respect, empathy, and equity."