The region’s response to a planned rally today by white supremacists in downtown Dayton has included prayer meetings, conversations and pledges of work still to come.
Massive fences erected for security will soon come down, but Mila P. Cooper, executive director of the Coretta Scott King Center at Antioch College, said barriers still exist in the community to fair and equal treatment for everyone.
She spoke Thursday night at An Evening Discussion on Race Relations hosted by the NAACP Dayton Unit.
“I think we need to look at results and at disparities beyond hate groups. That’s the easy part, because they are overt,” she said during the forum that drew about 250 people to the Dayton Art Institute.
KKK rally in Dayton: Detours to avoid road closures downtown
It was one of numerous community events that have been held to counter the message of the rally with education and communication.
Society has moved in a positive direction, but black communities continue to face inequities from food access to an Ohio school funding system that has been ruled unconstitutional, Cooper said.
“I think racism will always exist, at least in my life time,” she said. “So will white supremacy. But we have achieved some results.”
Today, the focus for law enforcement will be to keep members of a Ku Klux Klan-affiliated group and those opposing their message safe downtown while others in the gather to celebrate community values at parks across town.
Officials continue to ask people to stay away from Courthouse Square, where the group based in Indiana is permitted to rally from 1-3 p.m.
“We want you to stay safe. We understand how frustrating it is to have a hate group come into our community and spew this message of division,” said Jared Grandy, Dayton’s community police relations coordinator. “But if you can avoid going down there at all, please do so.”
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said Friday she is hopeful the rally is peaceful and without incident, a concern because the supremacist group’s goal is to provoke a response and create anger and division.
“The city of Dayton does not want these people here,” Whaley said. “I hope this weekend will be remembered only for the way that Daytonians stood united against hate.”
‘We are angry’
The presence of the group here is “extremely frustrating,” said Whaley.
“We are angry that we have to spend public resources responding to people who want to make our neighbors feel less safe,” she said. “In so many ways, this event detracts from all of the work we should be doing in our community.”
Only those associated with the KKK group holding the rally permit will be allowed on Courthouse Square, and Dayton police will control when and how its members enter and exit the venue. They also must “immediately leave the Dayton downtown area after the rally is concluded,” according to a consent decree signed with the city. The agreement, though, allows the group members to cover their faces and carry side arms.
The number of law enforcement personnel on duty today remains unknown, though personnel are coming from other Ohio cities and provided by state and federal agencies.
Streets began closing Thursday evening. By Friday morning, a two-fence barrier appeared on streets surrounding Courthouse Square, erected to keep counter protesters and Klan members apart today.
“We have gone to great lengths to plan appropriately and have acquired ample resources available to maximize the safety of anyone who should choose to attend this rally,” said Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl.
New street closures today
More streets will close this morning near RiverScape MetroPark: Monument Avenue between Jefferson Street and Patterson Boulevard; St. Clair Street between Monument Avenue and First Street and Harries Street.
All of the streets surrounding Courthouse Square are closed as well as many of the immediate next blocks, including those on Main and Ludlow streets, and Second and Third streets. Police say streets will reopen Sunday.
Many downtown buildings, businesses and the Dayton Metro Library are closed. The Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority’s Wright Stop Plaza Transit Center is also closed but streets near the library will provide a temporary bus hub, according to the RTA. Southbound and eastbound buses will line up on St. Clair Street Street and northbound and westbound buses will be on Patterson Boulevard.
No bus stops outside the affected downtown area have changed and buses will return to Wright Stop Plaza once the fencing downtown is removed on Sunday, according to the RTA.
Marshal’s worry: ‘Radical people — either way’
It’s also unclear how many how many counter protesters may descend on Courthouse square — and where they may come from.
Ann Snyder of Dayton took U.S. Department of Justice event marshal training this week to be a liaison with law enforcement and help counter protesters keep emotions in check today. Her worry: “radical people – either way – and people that don’t really see the big picture and don’t really care about other people.”
An organizer from Columbus Anti-Racist Action, an anti-fascist group, said activists from at least four other states were on their way to Dayton – meeting first at a campsite outside of town.
“We’re going to be there,” said Jerry Bellow. “My job is to demoralize the fascists … We have a lot of plans. Plans will be executed.”
Other groups plan alternative activities today, including a family event from 1 to 3 p.m. at McIntosh Park hosted by the Dayton Unit of the NAACP along with about 40 community partners.
Tomorrow, the NAACP will lead a ceremonial cleansing of Courthouse Square similar to the response after a 1994 KKK rally in the public space.