This past weekend, the City of Dayton braced for what could have been a repeat of the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. Fortunately, what occurred in downtown Dayton on Saturday was very different. As a mere nine people showed up as part of the Ku Klux Klan rally, they were met by a diverse crowd of nearly 600 peace protestors, a fence barrier, and more than 700 police officers. In windows and on chalkboards, downtown businneses displayed messages in condemnation of hate, thereby affirming the voices of the passionate crowd only blocks away. Outside downtown, an additional community peace gathering was held at McIntosh park — named after slain Dayton civil rights leader W.S. McIntosh.
The day’s events ended without a single act of violence or arrest. Rather, it seems that the city appeared more united than ever. While relieved by the peaceful outcome of the protest, the precautionary measures cost the city around $650,000. Indeed, there are numerous priorities to which these funds could have been directed, however the $650,000 price tag is far less than the price of a human life. As the city attempts to move on from what Mayor Nan Whaley described as an “an ugly chapter,” she noted that the event “helped shine a light on the issues that continue to divide us and all the work we still have to do to make our community a place of opportunity for everyone. Dayton is still too segregated, and too unequal. This is unacceptable, and something that we must keep focused on changing everyday.”
Upon learning of plans by the KKK-affiliated group to hold a rally in courthouse square of downtown Dayton, I felt disheartened, angry…anxious. Along with fellow Daytonians, I naturally resisted the idea of this hate-group staining our city with their presence. In classes at the University of Dayton, I had read about the contentious 1920 KKK Rally in Dayton and couldn’t help but think history might be repeating itself. As I reflect on Saturday’s events, I am reminded of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” On Saturday, Dayton truly united against hate and we must continue to do so in every form and fashion.