Oregon District business owners spoke out about sightings of white supremacists with guns and Nazi salutes in the district last weekend and the fear those extremists caused during the racial justice protests.
At a Thursday afternoon press conference, the business association called for more media attention and shared photos of a pair of men with one man doing a Nazi salute who shouted “white power,” a back shot of the two men with guns, of a physical fight and an example of racist flyers littered on the district streets Saturday night.
“Those men came down here to terrorize businesses, they terrorized our patrons and they terrorized our staff,” Puff Apothecary Owner Bethany Ramsey said.
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Ramsey said when she first moved to the Oregon District she was somewhat nervous about moving a black business into a historically white strip.
“I’m here today to say that if we, this business community, the city of Dayton officials, the police and the media, don’t make a stand and tell the truth about the danger of white supremacy, that we are all responsible for the pain, the suffering, the anguish that our people are going through,” Ramsey said. “We have a social and moral obligation to tell the men and women who seek to destroy black people that not only are they not welcome here in the district, or in the city of Dayton, they are not welcome in our society.”
With it not even a year out from the mass shooting in the Oregon District, Ramsey said “shame on those two white men who came down here after less than a year ago a gun wielding murderer came out here and laid blood and bodies in our streets.”
Emily Mendenhall, the co-owner of Lily’s Bistro, closed business early Saturday after staff alerted her that men were in front of their building with guns and a physical altercation with the men was occurring. A man used a Nazi salute and was in a heated conversation with the people around him, she said.
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“That’s troubling for many reasons, not the least of which is that we’re a community trying our best to recover from the trauma of the mass shooting last Aug. 4. The Oregon District seeks to provide a safe, welcoming and inclusive space and this very much created a problem … my staff was emotionally, visibly, shaken up by this occurrence,” she said.
Mendenhall said some business owners have had property damage, “but that is so minimal in comparison to black and brown people living in constant fear for their lives and ultimately not only losing their lives but rarely seeing justice.”
Kyle Babirad, with CANARY Consulting, said Oregon District businesses supports the Black Lives Matter movement, supports the protesters and are protesters.
“We just call on everyone to tell the story that we’re seeing on the street. We would love to see the same thing being reflected in the stories we’re seeing on the news,” Babirad said.
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