DAYTON, Ohio — A community conversation in response to a planned KKK rally in Dayton has resulted in a new civic call to counter hate and promote a culture of tolerance and equality.
Dayton United Against Hate is a campaign with a message opposite one the Honorable Sacred Knights bring on May 25 and last long after they leave Courthouse Square, said Erica Fields, Dayton’s Human Relations Council executive director.
“Hate is an open attack on tolerance, decency and overall community health,” Fields said. “We must not ignore it, but instead take action, unite against it, and create opportunities for sustained movement. The United Against Hate is a platform to help uplift the community as we work toward inclusion, respect, empathy and equity.”
In March, more than 250 people attended a community meeting at Grace United Methodist Church, breaking into small groups to talk about how the community would respond to the Klan group from Madison, Ind. Those discussions provided the genesis for the United Against Hate coalition that emerged, which includes individuals, non-profits, local governments, and those from private-sector businesses large and small.
Efforts culminated in United Against Hate Month, which began Monday and ends June 13. The group launched a website, www.unitedagainsthatedayton.com, that includes a calendar to connect people with events geared toward a peaceful response to the Klan group. New events can be added directly on the site.
Dayton United Against Hate posters have also been designed. They are are available for download and will appear in the Dayton Daily News on Sunday and May 23. The group is encouraging the poster be carried at events and placed in windows of area homes, businesses, schools and churches.
A broad and diverse group of people are committed to continue the community dialogue beyond May 25, said Mary Tyler, one of the organizers.
“It also creates a platform for us to have continuing conversation about what we can do to remain united in the community, but also address ongoing concerns and matters affecting our region,” said Tyler, who is executive director National Conference for Community and Justice of Greater Dayton.
Tyler said the community needs to ensure that “long-term there’s equity throughout the region. That includes equity in education and equity in economic development.”
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said many in the community already embrace the campaign’s core values.
“Although we may choose to express our anger and frustration about this event differently, our community has certainly shown that we are united against hate,” she said.
Ramya Prathivadhi viewed the new posters this week at a Dayton Community Police Council meeting and said she would be picking up some for herself and checking events on the website.
Prathivadhi, who moved to Dayton from India 10 years ago, said she has a difficult time understanding how someone can express hate over the color of another’s skin.
“Everybody should be able to respect each other, and that shouldn’t be up for debate,” Prathivadhi said. “It should be a normal thing to happen, that you talk to a neighbor and you know they respect you and they care for you.”
The Facebook page for the Honorable Sacred Knights lists a post office box in Madison, Indiana — population about 12,000 — as contact information.
Madison Mayor Damon Welch said Wednesday that authorities in the Indiana city think there are only three or four members of the Honorable Sacred Knights who live in Jefferson County, Indiana. He said he doesn’t want the public to think there’s a large Klan-affiliated group located in the southeast Indiana city, which is the county seat.
“We don’t stand for any of what they put out,” he said.
The Honorable Sacred Knights wrote in an email Wednesday that the group now has “closer to 25 members.”
“We don’t expect for the city to approve of us,” the email stated.
The Klan group has said previously that its May 25 rally in Dayton, around 120 miles from Madison, is not about hate. Earlier this week, the group and Dayton city officials reached an agreement that will bar the group from wearing paramilitary or tactical gear and carrying assault rifles, bats or shields. The group’s members also can’t carry flame throwers or knives. They can carry certain firearms with permits and cover their faces.
Only those associated with the group will be allowed at the Courthouse Square rally site, and Dayton police will be on hand to control their entrance and exit from the site, Dayton city attorney Barbara Doseck said Monday. Police may shut down the rally if members fail to comply with the terms of the consent decree, she said.