City leaders in Dayton, Ohio, called for calm ahead of a rally in the city this Saturday planned by a group linked to the Ku Klux Klan.
Mayor Nan Whaley (D) encouraged people to avoid Dayton’s downtown area Saturday as counterprotesters are expected to clash with the Honorable Sacred Knights of Indiana.
“The City Commission and I hope that May 25 can be remembered not as a day of hatred and bigotry, but as a day that our community demonstrated that we are united against hate. There are many ways to show this opposition, but for public safety we are encouraging people to avoid downtown during the rally on May 25,” she said in a video Tuesday.
“Extremists such as this hate group are not interested in a conversation and try to use these events to provoke responses from the crowd. Our goal for May 25 is to ensure that everyone in our community is safe and that we meet this attack on our values by celebrating what makes Dayton great."
Officials approved the permit for the rally in February, saying they had no choice but to approve the application, which was ultimately filed accurately after applicants submitted it using fake names.
“We are legally obligated to provide access to public spaces where individuals can exercise their freedom of speech and right to assemble,” Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert told local media outlets.
About 10 to 20 or more members plan to attend the rally, according to the group’s application. Members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, which was rejected by the original Black Panther Party as a hate group, Antifa and other leftwing and anti-racist groups are expected to attend, according to Newsweek.
Dayton sued the KKK-linked group in March to prevent it from holding the rally, citing the permit application’s declaration that the rally’s attendees plan on bringing weapons.
Whaley said the city is coordinating with residents to prepare for the rally, convening a Committee on Safety and Emergency Preparedness and launching trainings for city employees to become familiar with the National Incident Management System and Incident Command System as detailed in the city’s Regional Emergency Operations Plan.
The city created the platform unitedagainsthate.com after meetings with community leaders to establish “a way for residents to share diverse ways they plan to respond before, during and after the May 25 event.”
Rabbi Ari Ballaban, the director of Dayton’s Jewish Community Relations Council, warned this week of the potential for violence, invoking the deadly 2017 counter between white nationalists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va.
“Courthouse Square will be a powder keg on the 25th. Not only will the KKK be present, but there will likely be thousands of angry counter-protestors there, many bused in from around the region. I trust our local police to ensure Dayton not become the next Charlottesville, but I still wouldn’t recommend someone I loved place themselves in such a situation,” he wrote in a statement.