It’s a balance between protecting freedom of speech and preventing riots.
On Saturday, a group of more than 50 Cincinnati Police Department officers were sent to Dayton to help deal with a planned Ku Klux Klan rally and nearby counter protests.
That’s according to an email sent on Friday from Cincinnati City Manager Patrick Duhaney to members of the City Council.
“There is no reason to believe the events this weekend will be anything other than peaceful,” Duhaney wrote. “However, CPD officers will be on-hand to assist Dayton Police in a support/reserve capacity should their services be needed.”
The rally was being held in Courthouse Square with some 20 demonstrators expected from the Honorable Sacred Knights of Indiana. It’s an offshoot of the notorious white supremacist group.
On the flip side, there were as many as 1,000 counter-protestors expected from groups such as Black Lives Matter and the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.
In an attempt to prevent the rally, Dayton’s government sued the Honorable Sacred Knights. They instead reached an agreement that members of the group could gather as long as they did not wear paramilitary or tactical gear, bring assault rifles or carry bats or shields.
They were, however, granted permission to carry legal sidearms – as were members of the counter-protest.
Police were understandably anxious about the possibility of violence similar to that which made Charlottesville, Virginia, explode into the national spotlight. As a precaution, police led de-escalation workshops for counter-protesters and discussed their security plans with members of the public in the weeks leading up to the rally.
On top of that, they also consulted with law enforcement agencies in Charlottesville itself, said police Chief Richard Biehl.
“Local law enforcement has sent organizations in the Dayton community a strong recommendation to not attempt a counter-protest at the actual location of the rally,” Duhaney wrote in his email to Cincinnati City Council.
He also said they were prepared for it.
“However, several peaceful alternative events are planned by Dayton-area human/civil rights organizations. The groups have been working in close coordination with local law enforcement to develop a strategy that allows concerned community members a space to gather without being in close proximity to the rally.”
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley tried a different approach leading up to it.
He encouraged the entire community, including planned counter-protesters, to ignore the event and make sure the Sacred Knights received no attention.
“This hate group that is coming in from outside our community want to incite problems in our community and we want to stop that from happening,” she said. “We really don’t want people to go downtown, because that’s what this hate group wants and we don’t want to give this hate group what they want.”