Congressman Turner urges next-day rally to counter KKK group coming to Dayton

Congressman Mike Turner wrote Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley on Tuesday, expressing concerns about safety during a planned rally by a KKK-affiliated group in May.

The Honorable Sacred Knights of Indiana plans to rally on Courthouse Square in Dayton. Several groups have announced or discussed plans for counter rallies or gatherings on the same day.

“I write to urge caution as you look to plan any counter event on May 25,” says the letter from Turner, R-Dayton. “While we should take every opportunity to unequivocally condemn these hate groups, I am sure you share my view that everyone should be discouraged from being anywhere near Courthouse Square on that day. Our community should not have one eye see or one ear hear this outside group’s hateful message.”

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Neither the city of Dayton nor Whaley have announced any counter events for that day. Dayton City Commissioners are hosting a forum at 7 p.m. tomorrow, March 20, at Grace United Methodist Church, 1001 Harvard Blvd., to discuss a potential community-wide response.

“This forum will be an opportunity to strategize about how Dayton will respond as a community, with a voice united against hate,” a press release from the city said. “Any event that comes from this forum will be community-led, but the City would like to help facilitate this conversation.”

Whaley responded in a letter to Turner saying the city will not hold any counter events. She said she’s heard from residents who are frustrated and want to demonstrate, so the city is working to facilitate conversations and make sure any community-led event is safe.

“I too take very seriously the threat that the hate group planning to rally on May 25th poses, both to the safety of our community and to the well-being of our residents,” she said. “That is why the city filed suit last week in order to ensure that they cannot hold a paramilitary rally on Courthouse Square.”

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The Dayton Unit of the NAACP is planning several events surrounding the Knights rally, including a conversation on race relations at the Dayton Art Institute on May 23, a family event at McIntosh Park on May 25 and a cleansing of Courthouse Square on May 26.

The Sunday event is similar to one the city held after a KKK rally in the square in 1994 during Turner’s first term as mayor.

“Upon the advice of Jesse Gooding, the president of the Dayton NAACP, the next day we held a larger ceremonial washing of the Square to reclaim the space and wash away the hate,” he said. “We are a community with a legacy of peace and should take every opportunity to embrace that heritage. Let us not risk public safety or give any opportunity for these hate groups to cause violence in our community.”

NAACP Dayton Unit President Derrick Foward spoke with Turner about the group’s plans, Foward said.

“We’re giving people an alternative to the negativity that’s going to be happening downtown,” Foward said of Saturday’s event. Sunday’s gathering will serve to, “sweep the hatred right out of our community,” he said.

Foward welcomed other groups to join in the Sunday event, including Turner, the city and county.

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A group called A Better Dayton Coalition has also met to plan alternative peaceful events for May 25.

The coalition, which is led by members of Black Lives Matter Miami Valley, will hold another meeting to discuss its plans at 6 p.m. on April 2 at Deja Vu Hall, 4321 Salem Ave. in Dayton.

“For the safety of our community, I again urge caution against organizing any events on the same day as this hate rally. There is a better solution, one that embraces Dayton’s history as a beacon of peace and represent who we are as Daytonians,” Turner’s letter says.

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Whaley said city’s response must be different from the 1990s.

“The rise of social media and the charged political environment have drastically changed the situation since 1994,” her letter said. “While we wish that ignoring these groups would completely disempower them, that is no longer the case.”

She invited Turner to join the community conversation Wednesday and asked for any assistance his office can provide in securing federal resources for a public safety response.

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