DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Mayor Nan Whaley, along with members of Dayton City Commission and Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl, held a news conference Friday afternoon to discuss protests that are planned in Dayton this weekend in response to the death of George Floyd.
The Mayor says she feels confident that the organizers of Saturday’s protest will do everything in their power to speak their minds while protecting their community.
“I know these leaders. They have been leaders that have been in the community and know how important it is to speak our voices but also make sure that we’re protecting our community at the same time, and they value that,” she said.
However, Whaley issued a reminder to those planning to protest that we are still in the midst of a pandemic, and urges those participating to wear a mask.
“We’re still among a pandemic. I recognize, though, that people are frustrated, angry, scared, and they need to exercise their First Amendment right, that’s what they need to do. I hope they’ll wear a mask to protect themselves during COVID,” she said.
It comes as the Better Dayton Coalition said they want people of all races and backgrounds to join them at noon Saturday as they protest police brutality and the deaths of black men and women to current and former law enforcement officers.
“I’m encouraging every white person I know to stand in the gap, this is the time to stand in the gap for black people and say ‘This is not about black or white, this is an issue of human dignity and I need to stand up anytime I see someone being dehumanized,” said Dr. and Reverend Chad White of the Better Dayton Coalition.
The Better Dayton Coalition is the group behind the peaceful counter protests at last year’s hate group rally.
Chief Biehl described 46-year-old George Floyd’s death in police custody as a “national tragedy,” and emotionally noted that the Dayton community has been no stranger to tragedy in the past 12 months.
“We have found a way to meet each of these tragedies with grace, grit, kindness, and compassion. I’m impressed by the way the Dayton community — our community — has found courage, perseverance, and strength to do so,” he said. “Yet we are challenged again to not only tend to our own trials and losses but also witness, and in some way, respond to the national tragedy of the death of George Floyd.”
How we as a community will respond, he says, will make all the difference.
Chief Biehl goes on to say that officers with the Dayton Police Department will protect citizens’ right to protest.
“We expect our community members will be lawful in doing so,” he said. “We will have sufficient police personnel available to monitor community activities to ensure everyone’s rights are honored. We look forward to a safe weekend for all community members.”
He says he has been in contact with members of his command staff to emphasize that they should be mindful of the fact that these national events can have an impact on our own community.
“We need to be diligent in how we approach and provide service for the community, and honor our values of professionalism, integrity, respect, and fairness in all interactions.We’ll certainly be re-emphasizing certain aspects of our tactics, which do not include, in any fashion, neck restraints. I want to make that clear,” he said, adding that law enforcement who have had specific training in responding to protests will be available.
This news conference follows one from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who talked about the protests that happened in downtown Columbus, Thursday night as crowds gathered to protest police brutality.
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