More Than 500 Protesters Drowned Out Nine Attendees at a Klan Rally in Dayton
More than 500 protesters took to the street in front of Dayton's Courthouse Square today to protest a rally by the Sacred Honorable Knights of Indiana, a group that says it is affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan.
The crowd was diverse: Locals there on their own, Christian groups in traditional garb singing religious songs against racism, anti-fascist and black liberation organizations, representatives from the American Indian Movement.
Many carried banners and signs and wore clothing decrying the KKK and racism. One person in a giant orange fox costume held a sign reading "Dayton United Against Hate."
Most of the crowd were Dayton natives, though some came from Cincinnati, Columbus and other cities.
Elsewhere throughout the city, groups including the Dayton NAACP, a new group called Dayton Black Lives Matter and others held counter-events at local parks.
Only nine members of the Madison, Indiana-based Knights showed up for their permitted event. The group, which advocates for the legal separation of whites from others in society, flew Confederate, U.S. and KKK flags.
Separated from the street by yards of distance, multiple fences and massive police presence, the group was barely visible or audible to those on the other side of the barriers.
In YouTube videos under the group's name, members say they advocate for legal segregation of white and non-white people. Other videos feature members lighting crosses on fire. Some photos in past videos show members with assault rifles.
The Knights held a prior public event last September when about 20 members gathered at a park in Madison for a rally. Heavy police presence and barricades kept the group separate from more than 300 protesters who showed up to condemn the Knights' message.
At least 50 officers from the Cincinnati Police Department made the hour-long trip up I-75 to work the event. Officers from Cleveland and Columbus were also present, as were State Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies.
A helicopter hovered overhead and law enforcement personnel were also stationed on nearby rooftops.
There were no arrests or use-of-force incidents, police officials say.
All told, more than 350 law enforcement officers worked the event. Dayton City Manager Shelly Dickstein said the city expected the costs for security would run as high as $650,000, including $400,000 for security materials and $250,000 in personnel costs.
That irked many critics of the KKK rally, who questioned why so much taxpayer money needed to be spent on the small group from 125 miles outside Dayton.
Jalisa Warren of Dayton came to the rally with a sign reading "The KKK in 2019? Lame."
"Apparently when they submitted their paperwork, it was wrong and we gave them time to fix it and still come down here," Warren said. "I know kids who can't eat. I know people who are getting evicted. But we can spend all this money for nine people?"
The Knights first applied to hold a rally earlier this year, but Montgomery County officials denied their permit request because the group used false names on its application. The group filled out another form and, in February, the county issued a permit for the event to a purported member named Robert Morgan with a post office box in Madison, Ind.
County officials said they condemned the group's message, but said they had no choice but to issue the permit on First Amendment grounds.
The City of Dayton subsequently filed a lawsuit seeking to block the event, citing indications on the group's permit that they would be armed and saying the Knights would act in a paramilitary manner not protected by the constitution.
Despite the lawsuit, the event moved forward, taking place from 1-3 p.m. at Dayton's Courthouse Square.
A settlement between the city and the group stipulated that only those listed on the permit would be at the event site and that those with permits could carry handguns but not long guns. The group was allowed to wear masks, though members mostly wore sunglasses and bandanas.
Some activists on social media have claimed that some group members are felons who should not be permitted to carry weapons; it was not immediately clear if those individuals attended the rally.
City and county officials encouraged people to stay away from downtown Dayton. At least one application by Black Lives Matter Dayton for a permit to hold a counter-protest at a privately owned location two blocks from the site was denied. The group moved that event to a public park.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley praised the city's response in a statement, but also acknowledged its continued struggles with racial disparities.
“Dayton is still too segregated and unequal," she wrote. "This is unacceptable and something that we must keep focused on changing every day. This ugly chapter is over, but it means we have to get back to the real work – making sure that no matter what you look like, where you come from, or who you love, that you can have a great life here in Dayton."
Protest attendee Warren said that Dayton has deep problems with systemic racism and segregation, like many cities in America, but that the big turnout opposing the Klan was encouraging.
"Black, white, red, yellow, green, I'm here for it," Warren said. "I know we can't do anything to them, and that' s fine with me, but we have to stand up."
| Photos by Nick Swartsell