A Klu Klux Klan (KKK) rally held in Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday drew only nine members to the event and hundreds of counterprotesters.
The rally was held in the center of downtown Dayton at Courthouse Square and was hosted by the Honorable Sacred Knights of Indiana, which has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a KKK hate group.
Though the rally, which received a permit from Montgomery County earlier this year, was slated to have 10 to 20 or more members of the group in attendance, police say only nine members showed up.
Footage captured from the rally showed the small group of members stationed behind police escorts and several fences while waving KKK flags and the U.S. flag at times.
— ABC 22/FOX 45 Dayton (@ABC22FOX45) May 25, 2019
So far local media say only 9 members of the Klan group have arrived for their rally in Dayton, Ohio, and the small handful of those currently on the supporters side are all counterprotesters pic.twitter.com/7ljhha2feM
— Aris Folley (@ArisFolley) May 25, 2019
But on the opposite side of Courthouse Square, hundreds of counterprotesters could be seen swarming the area for much of the rally, which lasted roughly three hours.
A look at the scene right now, 22 minutes before the KKK is due to arrive. pic.twitter.com/xu21yZY8aU
— Marcus DiPaola (@marcusdipaola) May 25, 2019
Group, some wearing traditional Black Panther gear such as black berets, now marches on the main counter-protest area outside the KKK rally in Dayton. pic.twitter.com/B3H9Ya0OBg
— Geoff Redick (@GeoffWSYX6) May 25, 2019
Counterprotesters at KKK rally in Dayton, Ohio pic.twitter.com/kZwuBKT8G3
— Aris Folley (@ArisFolley) May 25, 2019
Byron Benoin, a school teacher from Chicago who attended the rally as a member of his church group, told The Hill that he and his friends were demonstrating to “promote good and truth” and show that “all men are equal.”
“It’s very shocking to me,” the 42-year-old said of the rally. “I mean, being a black man from Chicago, and in your mind you feel like you’re past certain things that you’re not going to see, and it’s just shocking that you’re actually gonna see something like this.”
Daj’za Demmings, 27, an engineer and president of Dayton Young Black Professionals, said she organized efforts involving different pro-black organizations from in and outside Dayton to aid counterdemonstration efforts at the rally on Saturday.
“We have Black Panther people that are here from the ’50s and the ’60s from California. We have people from Haiti here. We have people from the Bahamas. We just have so many African coalition groups that are just coming to be the peace that they don’t expect us to be in situations like this,” she told The Hill.
“We just want people to see the solidarity and to understand right is right and wrong is wrong. It’s simple,” she said. “We’re just for peace. We’re just for equality. We’re just for social justice. We’re just for everything else like everyone else. It’s just always harder for some reason.”
Jemia Shackelford, an 18-year-old student who attends Sinclair Community College several blocks from the rally, said she joined counterprotesters on Saturday to show support and added that she was “appalled” that such an event was being held in Dayton.
“I was appalled. I was like, ‘This is really happening,’” Shackelford said, adding that she is hopeful members of the Klu Klux Klan-linked group “get that people are just not having any of the racism. It’s not fair to the community.”
It was first confirmed that the group was approved by Montgomery County to host a rally in downtown Dayton back in February. Since the news, a number of local and nationwide activists have condemned the event.
At the time, local officials said the group applied for a permit using fake names. But officials said they later had no choice but to approve the group’s request for a permit once their application was filled out properly.
“We are legally obligated to provide access to public spaces where individuals can exercise their freedom of speech and right to assemble,” Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert told local media then.
“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,” Colbert added.
In March, the city of Dayton even sued the group in an effort to stop the rally from happening.
The rally comes several months after massive protests in Washington, D.C., similarly dwarfed the roughly 15-20 people who took part in the “Unite the Right 2” rally at the time.