by William Trollinger
On Saturday afternoon, the Honorable Sacred Knights of Madison, Indiana held a rally in Courthouse Square in downtown Dayton. “Rally” is an overstatement, as only nine of them had the courage to show up. They were greeted by hundreds of counter-protesters, ranging from Antifa members and the New Black Panthers to local church groups. Taking lessons from what happened in Charlottesville in 2017, the well-prepared Dayton police kept the two groups apart. After two hours of being drowned out by chants — including “no Trump, no KKK, no Fascist USA” – and songs (including “Amazing Grace”), the little band of white supremacists slinked out of town. No violence, no arrests.
Two nights before the rally I spoke on “The Past and Present of the KKK and White Supremacy” at Precious Blood Catholic Church here in Dayton. Upwards of 300 people were in attendance. There was a significant police presence, but there was no incident (and afterward a couple of the officers thanked me for my presentation). While a good portion of my talk was on the Klan in Dayton in the 1920s, it was not surprising (given the apprehension about the upcoming rally) that most of the questions in the lengthy post-lecture Q and A had to do with the present:
- Why are the Klan and Klan-like groups not officially designated as terrorist organizations?
- What can we do now to ban or curtail future rallies by white supremacy groups?
- How do we combat people’s indifference to injustice?
- How do we get beneath the lies and the spin to know what political candidates really stand for?
- How do we teach people to value other human beings?
In anticipation of the Honorable Sacred Knight rally, my old friend Rod Kennedy – formerly the pastor of First Baptist Church here in Dayton – penned a lovely short sermonic essay. His conclusion was rather prescient:
Let the KKK come. Let them come to Dayton. I know a thing or two about Dayton, and the hateful spirit of the KKK will be met there with the spirit of goodness, equality, and justice. I know people there, courageous people who will stand against the KKK. As surely as the University of Dayton football team chased away the KKK in the 1920s, the good citizens of Dayton will once again win the victory – as partial, contingent, precarious, and incomplete as it will be.