Hate Arrives At Home: On the Front Lines of Dayton, Ohio’s KKK Rally

Warning: This article contains strong language

On Saturday, May 25, the Honorable Sacred Knights (HSK), a Madison, Indiana-based faction of the Ku Klux Klan, descended upon our city with the intent to spread their message of hatred and division. Instead, they were met with hundreds of unified citizens.

May 24, 6:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. (Night Before the Rally)

The night prior to the Klan rally, I spent time scouring the internet for any information I could find out about the Honorable Sacred Knights and how some people—both Dayton residents and people outside of the city—felt about the rally.

The viewpoints were overwhelmingly against it, with people opposing both the poisonous rhetoric and the financial burden that this was primed to put on the city of Dayton (it wound up costing the city $650,000)—though I did come across a few people saying that although they were against the Klan coming here, that they had a right to free speech.

On Reddit, the popular web discussion and news aggregation website, a poster sent me a link to a Twitter thread where some people had uncovered the identities, criminal records and faces of some of the 6-10 HSK members suspected to be in attendance the following day, most notably the HSK’s “Grand Wizard,” Derek Eaglin.

I then took to Facebook, searched the name “Derek Eaglin,” and came across the same man that I saw in the Twitter thread. Furthermore, I even recognized the tan camouflage hat with the bent brim and Confederate flag decals on it from one of the HSK’s YouTube videos.

(Originally, I had planned to post the HSK’s “Our Response to Dayton, Ohio” YouTube video that was made prior to the rally in this section, but from the looks of it, the HSK has since deleted their YouTube channel after the rally).

Armed with this information, I shut off my computer and went to bed with a slight sense of nervous uncertainty in the back of my mind as to what would go down the next day.

May 25, 10:55 a.m. (Two Hours Before Rally)

Just a handful of the counter-protesters around that day. (Matthew Hatcher / Getty Images)

I arrived downtown around 10:50 a.m. the following morning, as my two colleagues and I had planned to meet up a couple hours before the rally began so we could coordinate and plan.

As I sat on a bus stop across the street from the Main Library, the mood downtown overall was overall calm and relaxed. I spotted some few interracial couples walking together hand-in-hand with loving smiles on their faces, along with several people wearing black t-shirts that read “F*** RACISM.” Clearly, my fellow Daytonians came prepared to counter-protest.

12:10 p.m.

My colleagues let me know that they had finally arrived at the Courthouse Square. After navigating the maze of police barricades and detours, I finally ran into my cohorts as I heard classical music playing on some nearby speakers. The calm before the storm.

The counter-protest crowd was starting to grow. I scanned around as I saw people from seemingly every demographic and age group converse and laugh amongst each other as they anticipated the hateful visitors soon to arrive at our doorstep. People shook hands, hugged, and showed off the signs that they had painstakingly made to send a message to the Klan members.

12:12 p.m.

Just as my two colleagues and I met up, the Metro Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky chapter of the DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) marched into the area and unified the crowd into a series of chants and shouts as the DSA flag (an image of two people of different ethnicities shaking hands in solidarity with a rose in the background, the DSA’s symbol) waved proudly.

The crowd seemed to grow larger by the minute as different people took hold of the megaphone and started several chants such as “NO TRUMP, NO K.K.K., NO FASCIST U.S.A!”; “NO HATIN’ IN DAYTON!” and “F.*.*.K.K.K. O.F.F. AND GO AWAY!”


The DSA came out in full force. (Red X / YouTube)

The most rousing chant seemed to be “WHEN ‘X’ LIVES ARE UNDER ATTACK, WHAT DO WE DO? STAND UP, FIGHT BACK!” with ‘X’ alternating between “Black,” “Jewish,” “Gay,” “Queer,” “Immigrant,” and “Trans.” A sharp contrast to what the HSK was preparing to chant.

With roughly thirty minutes left until the Klan arrived, I looked around to take in as much as I could: the seemingly endless amount of cops surrounding the area, several members of the groups Antifa (short for “Antifascist,” easily recognizable by their signature colors, red and black) and the New Black Panthers patrolling our section with rifles and a couple of newscasters.

Directly above our heads flew a helicopter and a drone. Stationed on three different rooftops were at least a total of seven snipers who peered down on the counter-protest crowd, which caused many people to shout in anger at the large line of police officers facing towards us on the ground and led to the chant “THE COPS AND THE KLAN GO HAND-IN-HAND!”


Footage of the helicopter that flew above our heads. (Red X / YouTube)

The first set of snipers above us. (Red X / YouTube)

The second set of snipers. (Red X / YouTube)

12:40 p.m.

With twenty minutes remaining until the HSK was set to arrive, the chants from the counter-protesters grew louder and more passionate. Once again, a member of the DSA commanded the bullhorn, this time chanting “QUEER, STRAIGHT, BLACK, WHITE—SAME STRUGGLE, SAME FIGHT!”

With a handful of Klan members ready to make their appearance in the city I was born and raised in, yards away from where a statue of Abraham Lincoln stands and next to the same set of stairs that I played on as a kid, this show of unity was breathtaking.

The flags on display were numerous: the DSA flag, along with the solid red flags used by Socialists; the American Indian Movement (AIM) flag; the rainbow flag (for LGBT rights); the Pan-African flag (known by its red, black and green color scheme); the Transgender Pride flag (light blue, pink and white) and the infamous “Antifascist Action” flag used by Antifa.

As far as the eye could see were hundreds of peoplesome friends, many of them strangersready to look evil in the eyes. And shortly after 1:00 p.m., evil arrived.

1:13 p.m.

Beyond the two rows of metal fencing separating the counter-protestors from the riot gear-clad squadron of stone-faced police officers on the sidewalk of the Courthouse Square’s North Main Street entrance, flanked on all sides by more police officers as they secured the small perimeter near the CVS and the same water fountain that I threw pennies into as a kid, stood the HSK.

Though it was difficult to spot them due to the bevy of cops surrounding the area, the trio of a Confederate flag, an American Flag and a flag that read “Invisible Empire: Ku Klux Klan” waving in the distance made their presence known to our side of the aisle.


The nine Klan members that showed up. (YouTube)

After attempting to look through the mass of people blocking what little sight I had of the HSK, I decided to make my way to the front.

Maneuvering around to the front of the crowd to get a better view, I spotted two signs, one reading “Diversity = Genocide,” a reference to the white supremacist conspiracy theory which claims that due to a secret plot from the ‘elites’ (a term they use to refer to Jewish people), white people are being systematically ‘bred out of existence,’ due to ‘race mixing.’

The other sign, which was being held and waved about by one of the nine Klan members, read “It’s OK To Be White,” featuring a white hand flashing the “OK” symbol—a symbol recently adopted by white supremacists to signify ‘White Power.’

Once word spread that the HSK had finally made their appearance, the unified front of 600-plus mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, activists, college students, church members and out-of-towners who joined in as a show of unitylet the HSK know just how they felt about their presence in Dayton.

As the HSK’s Grand Wizard, Derek Eaglindonning a face mask, yet easily recognizable by his hat and staturebegan to speak into a small megaphone, it was clear that the Klan member’s mission had failed before it even had a chance to begin.

Not a single word from the HSK’s bullhorn was even audible. As a member from the DSA led the crowd through a series of defiant chants, all that could be seen from the other side was a pathetic group of nine men and women who clearly didn’t expect this much pushback.

(Credit: Quinton Bradley / The Clarion)

Throughout the day, the counter-protestors hurled insult after insult in defiance. At one point, one of the protesters was informed of the Grand Wizard’s name, which led to the hilarious chant “F*** DEREK EAGLIN!”

This is what the rally essentially amounted to: what many had feared would possibly wind up in a tragedy of Charlottesville-like proportions, wound up becoming a two-and-a-half hour scene of a handful of KKK members being mocked, ridiculed and silenced.

The supposed display of ‘white pride’ and superiority they had planned to show was rendered into a farce. While the portly klansman yelled inaudible racist nonsense into a megaphone as his fellow Klan members stood around awkwardly, hundreds of angry men and women yelled back at them ten times louder.

Despite the sweltering heat, our community stood firm, unflinchingly. In yet another show of unity, I noticed several people amongst the crowd passing out bottles to keep people hydrated along with a group of street medics who had set up treatment zones, should anyone need medical attention.

With such a strong show of defiance railing against them, at roughly 3:30 p.m. the Klan slinked away meekly as a plane that had been flying above their heads since they got there took one last pass, its banner reading “Equality Forever, Bigotry Never.” A fitting slogan for the day’s events.

Afterwards, a member from the Dayton Black Panthers led the entire counter-protest group in a march around the block to end the day as a symbol of unity between everyone in attendance. We marched around as everyone let out cheers of joy and people smiled and took photos with each other.

Footage of the post-rally counter-protest march. (Red X / YouTube)

As things started to quiet down, Richard (one of my colleagues) and I caught up with a man named Kyle, a member of the DSA’s Metro Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky branch.

When asked about his feelings towards the event, Kyle stated that although he wasn’t happy that the Klan members were allowed to come into the city, he was happy with how everything turned out.

“Obviously you would never want this event to happen,” stated Kyle. “But, given that, I feel great seeing the community come together in a large show of solidarity.”

I then posed a question about the concept of ‘free speech’ and how many people tend to use it in either acts of good faith or bad faith to spread harmful rhetoric. He responded promptly:

“My view on that is when your free speech directly translates to violence, you should not be surprised if a violent response is the product of that…So, yeah, you get your free speech—but when your free speech is violence—expect a response.”

He continued:

“Use a little common sense. If you actually suss out what they’re asking for—a white ethno-state—there is no way you can achieve that without a violent act or hate being carried out. So, they may say one thing but that’s just all BS P.R. in my opinion. There is no way that they can achieve their goals without violence and hatred.”

The feeling that I had when stood in that crowd that afternoon is an experience that I will never forget. Despite the hatred being spread online, despite the growing number of people being coerced into fascism and racial hatred on a daily basis, that day’s events showed me that there are still some fearless and very vocal people in this world prepared to fight back.


“My view on that is when your free speech directly translates to violence, you should not be surprised if a violent response is the product of that…So, yeah, you get your free speech—but when your free speech is violence—expect a response.”


Kyle, Cincinnati DSA Member

In that crowd of 600 people, we stood as one. Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Immigrant, Straight, Gay, Bi, Lesbian, Trans, Young, Middle-Aged, Elderly, Agnostic, Atheist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Activist, College student, Working-class and Middle-class. We all stood together in solidarity.   

This city, Dayton, Ohiothe only city that I’ve ever known and lived inhad evil show up at its doorstep on May, 25 2019 and it slammed the door in its face. And I couldn’t be any prouder.

Quinton Bradley
Intern

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