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Hundreds gather to ‘cleanse’ Courthouse Square, spread ‘peace, love’

Published: Sunday, May 26, 2019 @ 5:35 PM

ReClaiming of the Square event is last step of community response to Saturday rally at Courthouse Square

About 300 people came out Sunday for a symbolic cleansing of Courthouse Square, where the day before nine members of a KKK-affiliated group had gathered.

>>PHOTOS: Cleansing the square

Jo’el Jones, with Neighborhoods over Politics, who partnered on organizing the event, said it’s only partly correct to say that the community turned out Sunday in response to the Saturday hate group rally.

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“But the reason each and every last one of you took the time out of your schedule today was to affirm to the community and to the nation that Dayton, regardless of our problems, is a city of peace, love and unity,” Jones said. “We have the last say in what and how our community is represented.”

Along with the cleansing of Courthouse Square, the NAACP Dayton Unit organized a series of well attended events to counter the hate group rally, including a panel discussion May 23 on race relations and a Saturday gathering at McIntosh Park.

>>DAYTON RALLIES AGAINST KKK: ‘this ugly chaper is over,’ but work to be done

>>PHOTOS: Crowds gather to counter KKK rally

Going forward, Dayton Area NAACP President Derrick Foward encouraged the Sunday crowd to get involved in the organizations work.

“As I look at the sea of folks here today, just think about being members of the NAACP and engage in the work that we do as an organization that fights for your civil human rights,” Foward said.

Cleansing of Square is last event of community response to rally from Indiana based hate group

Turner said the KKK affiliated group isn’t from the area and doesn’t represent the area.

“This is a community that comes together, that celebrates its diversity, and they are not a part of us,” Turner said at the Sunday event.

The event organizers also invited a diverse series of speakers from different faiths and cultures in the Dayton area, who symbolically cleansed the square with incense, flowers, prayer, song, pouring libations and calls to action.

Amaha Selassie, who spoke representing the Ethiopian Orthodox faith, said he wanted to challenge those in attendance to use their gifts and talents to take on structural inequalities in the community.

“May this be the beginning and not the end,” he said.

For the Saturday rally, hundreds of Dayton residents turned out to protest the nine members of the KKK-affiliated hate group that were downtown.

Businesses throughout the city displayed messages condemning racism and hate, saying phrases like “Hate Has No Home Here” and “Dayton United against Hate.”

While community leaders and elected officials celebrated the city’s strong and unified showing against the hate group, they also pointed toward the hard work that still needs done toward equality in the city.

“Dayton is still too segregated and still too unequal,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said. “This is unacceptable and something we must keep focused on to change every single day.”

YWCA Grants and Advocacy Manager Sarah Wolf-Knight said when people think about white supremacy, they start thinking of things like the KKK or Nazis.

“When in reality, it’s institutional structure that is really ingrained in our society,” she said. “The fact that Dayton is one of the most hyper-segregated cities in the country, the gaps that we see in terms of wealth and opportunity for families of color, the disparities in food security and education. All of that is borne out of these systems.”

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OUR COMMITMENT

All spring the Dayton Daily News has covered the community response to a rally Saturday in downtown Dayton by a group affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan. It is our responsibility as journalists to report on how this event impacts our community, and how our community responds to it. Our staff spent days carefully considering how we’d cover this to ensure we don’t amplify hate speech, we don’t silence free speech, and we accurately inform you of the diverse views in our community.