Montgomery County denies KKK group’s permit, members vow to fight ruling

The Honorable Sacred Knights, an Indiana-based group affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, brought nine members to Courthouse Square in May 2019. Security costs for the event ran a combined $770,000 for the city of Dayton and Montgomery County. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
The Honorable Sacred Knights, an Indiana-based group affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, brought nine members to Courthouse Square in May 2019. Security costs for the event ran a combined $770,000 for the city of Dayton and Montgomery County. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF

A Ku Klux Klan-affiliated group that wants to rally a second time on Courthouse Square vowed legal action after Montgomery County denied its permit application Friday.

“We will still be in Dayton Ohio on September 5th,” read a statement from the Honorable Sacred Knights. “We are speaking with an attorney and will be suing for infringement and interfering with our right to peacefully assemble.”

The Honorable Sacred Knights based in Madison, Ind. applied in November to Montgomery County for a permit to rally on Sept. 5, a Saturday beginning the Labor Day weekend.

After allowing the group to assemble last May, Montgomery County officials said public safety concerns and the cost to local governments was too great for a second go around.

Last May, nine members of the group arrived but were met by 500-600 counter protesters kept apart by blocks of fence and the work of more than 700 law enforcement officers.

“We can’t in good conscious allow this to occur again,” said Montgomery County Commission President Judy Dodge. “This is just absurd. We’re not going to do this again. Period.”

RELATED: Leaders want county to deter Klan group from returning to Dayton

In announcing its decision Friday, the county cited these factors:

• Significant threat to public health and safety, which imposed an undue burden on local law enforcement to provide security and ensure safety of people and property;

• Negative impact on commerce, including significant traffic interruption and road closures, cancellation of events, and shuttering of downtown businesses;

• And significant financial burden on taxpayers, with costs for security totaling $770,000.

While the county owns Courthouse Square and is responsible for the permitting process, the city of Dayton was on the hook for 84% of the security costs last year.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley supported the county’s decision in a statement Friday.

“I am so glad that the county has taken this step to deny the permit to the hate group. The safety of our citizens comes first — and the hate group’s presence would once again create a dangerous and volatile situation in our downtown,” she said. “We at the city will continue to do everything in our power to make sure no groups that want to cause us harm can hijack our city at great cost to taxpayers and our businesses.”

MORE: Return to Dayton: Mayor said she’s angry about Ku Klux Klan group plans

The county came to its decision to deny the group’s permit after consulting with law enforcement and the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office, which handles legal affairs for the county.

Tom Hagel, University of Dayton professor of law emeritus, said everyone has First Amendment rights to speech and assembly, but those rights are not absolute.

“They can be limited when certain situations, for example, your right to free speech might be limited if your speech has the tendency to cause a public disturbance or violence,” he said.

The county’s denial was short, to the point and “now puts the ball in the court of the Ku Klux Klan” to either drop the matter or file an action in court to determine whether the denial of the permit was an unreasonable infringement of their constitutional rights, Hagel said.

“The county has made very clear where they stand and again, now that they have denied the request for a permit, it’s up to the Klan to do whatever they want to do,” he said.

Derrick Foward, Dayton Unit NAACP president, said denying the permit was “simply the right thing to do” and the organization will provide support for any subsequent legal battle.

“The Dayton NAACP will stand with the county in the decision they made if it comes time for them to try to sue the county,” Foward said. “The NAACP has a legal defense fund, and if we have to go that route to utilize our national legal defense fund to bring more might and power with the county, we will do that.”

Leader of A Better Dayton Coalition, the Rev. Chad White, commended Montgomery County for standing against hatred and racism. A Better Dayton Coalition organized last year to confront the Honorable Sacred Knights.

“The Klan has a history of employing intimidation and physical violence in order to maintain white supremacy. The soil of America is stained with the blood of victims that have been lynched, beaten and murdered at the hands of the Klan,” White said in a statement. “The citizens who are attempting to live up to the idea and ideas of the American democratic experiment stand in agreement and applaud your decision.”

The same individual, Robert Morgan, applied for this year’s permit and provided the same Madison, Ind., post office box address as listed on last year’s application.

Permit or not, the Honorable Sacred Knights intends to make an appearance in Dayton in September, the group wrote the Dayton Daily News.

“If they continue to deny us then we will be on the corners of Third and Main instead, but will still sue,” the statement read.

RELATED: Dayton plans to outlaw masks. Hate group says that won’t stop it.

The group said it planned to return to Dayton for reasons similar to the May visit.

“We have members in Dayton. Another reason is because it is our right,” an email read. “Every June gay pride is pushed down the throats of our youth. Every February black history is pushed down the throats of our youth. So at least once a year we allow our supporters and members to see white pride in their city.”


Cost to taxpayers for 2019 KKK rally

City of Dayton

$250,000 Dayton personnel

$400,000 Materials

Montgomery County

$28,500 Sheriff’s Office personnel costs

$35,000 Emergency Management personnel costs and equipment upgrades

$57,500 safety fencing

$770,000 Total

Sources: City of Dayton, Montgomery County

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