DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – For a meeting that started at 1:00 pm and ended at 3:00 pm, the Dayton library was packed with concerned residents.
The idea behind the IMPACT forum was to ask legal and safety-related questions, but many people in attendance still want to know why the rally is even happening.
The rally is expected to take place May 25th.
“You’re going to have this meeting and you’re still allowing this rally to go on. It kind of seems backwards to me. I wanted to come to ask that question,” said Elexus Renner, a Dayton resident.
Renner says people in her community are asking that question every day. Renner didn’t get to verbally ask her question. Instead, questions were handed in by paper.
The short answer to her question: The constitution. It allows hate groups to hold rallies.
However, Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl wants residents to know that laws can still be broken during events like the one planned for Courthouse Square.
“Not all speech is protected. Speech that is considered to be fighting words or threatening another person, that can fall into the area of illegality,” said Cheif Biehl.
Others in the crowd were worried about domestic terrorism. It’s something that U.S. attorney Ben Glassman says is not a legitimate legal charge.
“What you might think of as domestic terrorism, we are investigating it and prosecuting it as some other type of illegality,” said Glassman.
As far as security for the event, little is known. Only that the hate group has a permit for two hours.
“Within the downtown area, there will be an area that has restricted access,” hinted Biehl.
Dayton Police will be the lead as far as secuity is concerned.
Eventually, the conversation turned to the subject of hate crimes.
“A lot of us don’t even know who our neighbors are. And so of we don’t know each other. It’s hard for us to understand each other,” said Larry Lane of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
U.S. Attorney General for Southern Ohio, Ben Glassman says his office has prosecuted two federal hate crime cases between Cincinnati and Dayton over the last year. The recent cases are the first his office has seen in decades.
“Hate crimes are among the most heinous crimes that exist in the federal code. Not only do they victimize the victim of the offense, they have an effect on whole communities,” said Glassman.
According to the Dayton Police Department and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, hate crimes are often under reported.
“Within the county and area there are often crimes where something has spray painted on the wall of something. Maybe windows have been broken out. Maybe someone has been yelled at because of something they are wearing,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck.
We’ve seen plenty of church-related vandalism over the last month in Dayton.
Chief Richard Biehl says Ohio’s codes surrounding hate crimes are vague, making it difficult to pursue those charges.
“The only biases that are recognized under the Ohio Revised Code, under ethnic intimidation include race, color, religion and nation origin,” said Biehl.