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

Published: Friday, February 22, 2019 @ 7:01 PM

A Ku Klux Klan member stands on the stairs of the Kettering Government Center during a 2005 rally. FILE
A Ku Klux Klan member stands on the stairs of the Kettering Government Center during a 2005 rally. FILE

Montgomery County has approved a permit by a Ku Klux Klan-affiliated group to rally on Courthouse Square.

The Honorable Sacred Knights of Indiana plan to gather May 25 with an estimated 10 to 20-plus individuals in downtown Dayton, according to the group’s permit application.

Out of Madison, Ind., the group first applied for a permit using fictitious names, local law enforcement agencies and the FBI determined, according to the county.

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Montgomery County had the group resubmit the application with a legitimate name. After a review and consultation with law enforcement and legal counsel, the county approved the permit by the applicant Robert Morgan, who gives a Madison, Ind., post office box address.

“We are legally obligated to provide access to public spaces where individuals can exercise their freedom of speech and right to assemble,” said Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert. “More importantly, we will continue to work with our local law enforcement and community organizations to ensure public safety before, during and after the planned event.”

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Just this week, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors domestic hate and extremist groups, added the Indiana group to its updated “hate map.” The SPLC first took note of the Honorable Sacred Knights in 2017, said Heidi Beirich, an SPLC spokeswoman.

Through last year, the group became more active, frequently posting online, including videos on YouTube that confirmed an active, steady membership of about a dozen, Beirich said.

FIRST REPORT: Klan-affiliated group seeks permit for Dayton rally

The group will be engaged in “education and public speaking” while at Courthouse Square from 1-3 p.m., according to the activity description on the permit application.

The Montgomery County Board of County Commissioners released a statement Friday:

“We are troubled that an out-of-state group like this one has decided to come to our community. However, this is a constitutional issue. We cannot deny any group the ability to exercise their freedom of speech and assembly in a public space. We are focused on working with our diverse community organizations and local law enforcement to ensure that our citizens are safe during the event. We embrace our diversity, and we are committed to fostering an open and welcoming community for all our citizens. We are confident that our community will come together to send a message of tolerance, respect, openness, and kindness.”

Dayton City Commissioners released a similar statement.

It said: “We condemn all forms of racism, prejudice, bigotry, and hate.

“Dayton is a community that welcomes all people. The foundation of our community is that we believe that everyone deserves to be treated equally, with dignity and respect. Regardless of race, color, religion, sex, ancestry, national origin, place of birth, age, marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic status, or disability- you have a home in Dayton.

“These protections are not without cost. The Freedoms of Speech and Assembly, that guarantee these protections, mean we must also allow space for those we disagree with to speak hatred, bigotry, and racism. Although it is painful, doing so ensures that our rights will not be restricted.

“It is in times like these that we are reminded that these freedoms give all communities, regardless of their beliefs or viewpoints, the ability to vocalize their opinions. It guarantees the right of civil rights leaders to protest racism, the LGBTQ+ community to host Pride; women to hold the Women’s March; scientists to hold climate change rallies; students to protest gun laws; and advocates to call out injustice at the border.

“We invite the applicants to reconsider their decision to hold their rally in our community. Hate is not a Dayton value.”

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In September the Honorable Sacred Knights held a “kookout’ at a park in Madison, Ind. About 20 people attended the event and flew confederate flags. An estimated 300 people protested the group from across a fence erected at a city park, according to a report in the Louisville Courier Journal.

On Friday afternoon, the group’s Twitter account appeared to be suspended but a Facebook post read in part: “Our may 25th rally in Dayton Ohio was APPROVED!!! Not that we thought it was going to be denied. Time to get our lawn chairs and popcorn. This is going to be a hell of a show watching the liberals cry with their drums.”

A counter event, Beat the KKK Demonstration, has also appeared on Facebook.