Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton) is advising Dayton officials not to hold any counter-protests when a KKK-affiliated group assembles on Courthouse Square on May 25.
The representative from Ohio's 10th District says he issued his request in a letter Wednesday sent to Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. At least one such protest has been announced by a coalition that includes seven grassroots and faith-based organizations, and city commissioners discussed their options at a public meeting Wednesday night.
In his letter to Whaley, Turner said during his first term as Dayton Mayor in the ‘90s, a dozen or so Klan members held a similar rally on the square. And, rather than holding a counterprotest, the city “held a larger ceremonial washing of the Square to reclaim the space and wash away the hate.”
Turner says the ceremony was the suggestion of then-NAACP Dayton president Jesse Gooding. He encourages the current administration to take the same path.
“While we should take every opportunity to unequivocally condemn these hate groups, I am sure you share my view that everyone should be discouraged from being anywhere near Courthouse Square on that day,” Turner wrote. “Our community should not have one eye see or one ear hear this outside group’s hateful message.”
The congressman cited safety concerns shared by both he and Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman. Turner mentions the August 2017 “Unite The Right” rally and counter-protest in Charlottesville, which ended with one woman being killed by a white nationalist who drove a car through a crowd of counter-protesters.
Dayton filed a lawsuit last week against the Honorable Sacred Knights, which officials describe as a paramilitary group. While announcing the suit last week, Whaley and city commissioners said the rally would pose a violation of Ohio’s constitution. That suit was filed in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.
Last week, the mayor also said the city wanted to meet with any groups planning to counter-protest to decide on a unified front.