Members of A Better Dayton Coalition said they will counter a Ku Klux Klan group by gathering across Main Street from Courthouse Square where the Honorable Sacred Knights will be confined when they rally May 25.
Coalition supporters will meet in front of the former PNC Bank building, according Marlon Aldridge, a coalition member who revealed the location during a town hall meeting Thursday evening at Mt. Enon Missionary Baptist Church.
Dayton police Lt. Andrew Gillig told about 30 people attending the meeting that the Klan group out of Indiana will be behind barricades and their actions in and out limited.
Aldridge told about 30 people attending the meeting to wear red shirts and wear comfortable shoes. He recommended parents leave children at home.
“If you’re fearful, you don’t want to come down,” Aldridge said. “There’s going to be other events.”
City leaders, law enforcement and those in the federal Justice Department dispatched to Dayton to prevent violence oppose counter events at the same time and place as the Klan group, citing safety concerns.
That won’t stop members of A Better Dayton Coalition, according to its leader, the Rev. Chad White.
“Civil disobedience if you will, or non-violent protest, is confrontation,” said White. “It is to me the pinnacle of confrontation, to be nonviolent in the face of those who seek to further oppress … based on skin color.”
“Our plans are in the vein of civil rights demonstrations in years past,” said White, also president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “We will collaborate and come together. We will sing freedom songs from the civil rights movement. We will have speakers that will encourage love, peace, community and acceptance of one another.”
Others say a direct counter protest of the Honorable Sacred Knights will be counterproductive.
Last week, a U.S. Department of Justice specialist urged people to steer clear of Courthouse Square and downtown when the Klan group gathers from 1-3 p.m.
“There’s no way to engage peacefully or intellectually or any other way that would be positive for the community,” said Daedra A. Von Mike McGhee with the federal department’s Community Relations Services.
The Madison, Ind.-based Klan group wants only to gin up reaction, said Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck.
“We have to remember, these groups are coming here to incite us,” Streck said. “ We know when large groups gather, people do stuff that’s out of character and that’s what they are relying on.”
A Better Dayton Coalition is not in agreement with those who say ignore the Klan, said Donald Domineck of the Dayton New Black Panther Party, also in the coalition.
“We feel like if that rally takes place, that we should be there to counter protest,” he said.
Other community groups affiliated with A Better Dayton Coalition include Black Lives Matter Miami Valley, Justice for Racial Equality and Brotherhood, National Congress on Faith and Social Justice, Sankofa Federation and Saving our Sons.
White said the coalition has met with local authorities who are aware of the group’s intent to hold a counter protest.
“Dayton police is aware of our plans, and we have been dialoguing with them to make sure that what we are doing is legal and that they understand what we will be doing,” he said.
Access to an area of downtown will be restricted during the May 25 rally, said Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl, who offered no specifics last week. Klan members and their supporters would have to enter and exit the venue at locations approved by Dayton police if an agreement is reached to resolve a lawsuit the city brought against the Honorable Sacred Knights, according to a draft consent decree obtained this week by the Dayton Daily News.
Montgomery County, which owns Courthouse Square, approved the permit in February for the Madison, Ind.-based group to rally with an estimated 10 to 20-plus individuals, according to the group’s application.
Other organizations plan to hold alternative activities surrounding the Klan rally.
The Dayton Unit of the NAACP plans several events, including a conversation on race relations at the Dayton Art Institute on May 23, and a family event at McIntosh Park on May 25.
A ceremonial cleansing of Courthouse Square on May 26, the day following the Honorable Sacred Knights’ rally, will be similar to the NAACP’s response after a 1994 KKK rally in the public space.