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Dayton sues KKK-affiliated group ahead of downtown rally

Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2019 @ 9:10 AM
Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2019 @ 9:47 AM

            Courthouse Square in Dayton is the planned site for a KKK-affiliated group to hold a rally in May. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Courthouse Square in Dayton is the planned site for a KKK-affiliated group to hold a rally in May. LISA POWELL / STAFF

The city of Dayton is filing a lawsuit asking for injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment against the group affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan that wants to hold a May 25 rally downtown.

The city wants the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas to declare that the Honorable Sacred Knights of Indiana would violate Ohio law if its members act in a paramilitary fashion.

The Ohio Constitution requires that militias be under civil authority of the state, and the Sacred Knights would be in violation of state law if it engages in paramilitary conduct, officials said.

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

The First Amendment doesn’t protect unlawful conduct and inciting violence, and the city argues the court should block the Honorable Sacred Knights from creating a public nuisance, city officials said.

The city is taking legal action to ensure citizens remain safe during the hate group’s planned rally, said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.

“We will not allow our city to be threatened by this group or their message of hate,” she said.

The Honorable Sacred Knights of Indiana plans to have a rally from 1 to 3 p.m. on May 25 at Courthouse Square, located at West Third and North Main streets.

RELATED: Groups oppose Klan rally in Dayton; call for meetings, peaceful protest

Dayton and Montgomery County officials and community leaders have condemned the planned rally and its organizers. But the county issued a rally permit, saying it had no choice.

The Honorable Sacred Knights is a paramilitary organization that wants to hold a military-like rally in downtown, said Barbara Doseck, Dayton’s law department director.

The city is not discriminating against the group based on their hateful views, but members’ social media accounts and activities make it clear that they intend to create a public nuisance in the community, she said.

“We fear that if this rally is permitted to continue as planned, they will do just that,” she said.

MORE: Hate groups in Ohio: How many are there, and where are they?

The city’s injunction request only tries to ensure the Honorable Sacred Knights does not hold a military-like rally or cause a public nuisance downtown, Doseck said.

The Honorable Sacred Knights’ rally permit indicated they would bring weapons, and the organization of the group is military like, she said.

The city also has announced there will be a forum at 7 p.m. March 20 at Grace United Methodist Church to discuss the community’s response to the rally.

Other communities have had some success in legally challenging groups that act like militias.

Multiple militia groups that participated in the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 were sued and entered consent degrees to settle the claims against them from the city of Charlottesville, local businesses and neighborhood groups.

Militia groups and their leaders agreed not to return to the city to “engage in coordinated armed activity” during rallies and protests, according to Georgetown Law.

The rally had violent clashes between alt-right protesters and counterprotesters, and an Ohio man fatally ran over a counterprotester. White nationalist groups came in helmets, matching uniforms and used shields, batons, clubs and other items as weapons, according to Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection.

Private militia groups dressed in camouflage fatigues, tactical vests, helmets, and combat boots and most had assault rifles, the institute said.