A leading rabbi in Dayton, Ohio, is warning the city’s Jewish community to stay away from a planned Ku Klux Klan (KKK) rally in the city this weekend, warning the demonstration and planned counterdemonstrations will be a “powder keg.”
The director of Dayton’s Jewish Community Relations Council, Rabbi Ari Ballaban, has warned there is a potential for violence at the Saturday demonstration in Dayton’s Courthouse Square. He invoked the memory of the 2017 Charlottesville white supremacist rally, which led to violent clashes between far-right and antifascist protesters that eventually claimed the life of Heather Heyer.
“Courthouse Square will be a powder keg on the 25th. Not only will the KKK be present, but there will likely be thousands of angry counterprotestors there, many bused in from around the region,” Ballaban wrote in a statement about the upcoming rally.
“I trust our local police to ensure Dayton not become the next Charlottesville, but I still wouldn’t recommend someone I loved place themselves in such a situation,” the leader of Dayton’s 5,000-strong Jewish community added.
In a statement to The Jerusalem Post, Cathy Gardner, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton, echoed Ballaban’s concerns. “The threat for potential danger will be high…. We know the best option is to stay as far away as possible from Courthouse Square.”
According to The Dayton Daily News, Montgomery County in February approved a permit for the KKK-affiliated Honorable Sacred Knights of Indiana to gather in downtown Dayton. Local groups have expressed their distaste over the planned demonstration but have emphasized the need for the constitutional right for free speech to be upheld.
“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,” the Montgomery County Board of County Commissioners said in a statement when the rally was approved.
The group of roughly 20 KKK demonstrators will be wearing face masks or bandannas and carrying legally sanctioned firearms, Robert Morgan from the KKK group explained to city attorneys in a letter. However, the group will not be allowed to carry assault rifles, bats and shields during the demonstrations.
At the same time in excess of 1,000 counterprotesters are expected to come to Dayton to demonstrate against the KKK members. Individuals from the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, rejected by the original Black Panther party as a racist hate group, members of the antifa movement and other protestors from a number of left-wing and anti-racist groups are expected to attend.