Return to Dayton: Mayor said she’s angry about Ku Klux Klan group plans

The same Ku Klux Klan-affiliated group that brought nine members to Courthouse Square last year plans a return to Dayton.

The Honorable Sacred Knights of Indiana – which drew some 500-600 counter protesters in May – has applied again to Montgomery County for a permit to rally on Sept. 5.

RELATED: Hundreds oppose KKK as police report no arrests, injuries or use-of-force incidents

The permit was applied for in by Robert Morgan, the same individual who applied for the 2019 event that drew on the work of about 720 law enforcement officers and locked down downtown Dayton.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said she’s incredibly frustrated and understands that people are upset and angry about the hate group’s plans to return to Dayton.

“Let me be clear: I’m angry too,” she said.

Whaley said the possibility that they would return is “too much” considering everything the community went through last year.

She said she already reached out to the Ohio governor, Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, and U.S. senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman to ask for assistance.

“I want people to know that the city is doing everything in our power to stop our community from having to go through this again,” she said.

She said for starters the city will introduce an anti-mask ordinance that will be on the commission calendar March 11 that will make it illegal for people to wear masks while committing crimes or engaging in behavior that reasonably causes other people fear.

The ordinance would be similar to a law passed in a city in Georgia that has withstood legal challenges, Whaley said.

The permit requested for that Saturday indicates the white supremacist group will bring 10 to 20-plus people for the reason of “public speaking.” The group’s mission is to “defend white Christian American rights,” according to the application.

“Montgomery County has received an application from the same group that came to Courthouse Square last year,” said Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert. “At this time, the application has not been approved.”

Despite public appeals last year to deny the group a permit, the county said it had little choice but to let the group from Madison, Ind. hold an event.

“We are legally obligated to provide access to public spaces where individuals can exercise their freedom of speech and right to assemble,” Colbert said at the time.

RELATED: Klan rally permit approved by Montgomery County: ‘We are legally obligated’

Because of their First Amendment rights, Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman said last year there was no mechanism to deny the group a permit.

“They (Honorable Sacred Knights) were probably hoping we would deny it,” she said last year. “Because if we would have denied it, they would have sued us, and they would have won, and we would have paid them a great deal of money.”

Whaley said other communities have been able to demand that hate groups pay security costs for their events, but that’s only successful on private property. She said Courthouse Square is a public space.

Whaley said she hopes the county will do everything in its power to prevent the application from moving forward.

She said the city covered the cost of security for the hate rally using its general fund. She said the city cannot afford to do that again, and she called on the county to pay for half of security costs if the rally is allowed to take place on its property downtown.

Following last year’s hate rally, the law department and city staff immediately began looking at ways to prevent similar events in the future, Whaley said.

“I am hopeful that we make it so unbearable to come that they don’t come,” she said.

Last year’s rally and counter-protest events resulted in no arrests, no uses of force by police, and no injuries.

The months leading up to May’s rally, however, prompted a number of community conversations about how to prevent and respond to hate crimes and how to react on the day of the rally, which occurred just two days before a raft of tornadoes hit the region.

RELATED: 200 people debate how best to counter Klan rally in Dayton

Members of the group were allowed to carry sidearms and wear masks last year, but in a consent decree reached with Dayton after it filed a lawsuit, the Honorable Sacred Knights agreed to leave assault-style rifles at home and leave town immediately after the rally.

RELATED: Klan group won’t agree to all of Dayton’s terms for rally

The city said the cost of protecting the Klan and counter-protesters during the rally and the alternate events held last Memorial Day weekend ran roughly $650,000. Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein estimated costs at $250,000 for personnel and $400,000 for materials.