DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Law enforcement agencies in the Miami Valley are closely monitoring the situation in Minnesota for when the Derek Chauvin verdict is announced. They’re working to make sure any potential protests here are peaceful.
Both the Dayton Police Department and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office say they support people’s right to protest. Right now, none are scheduled -for Courthouse Square or elsewhere in the city- but if that changes, law enforcement will be ready to maintain peace.
Dr. Leslie Picca is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Dayton. She says, “Oftentimes we protest based on individual cases, so we protest on Breonna Taylor, based on George Floyd. And it’s much harder to protest against systemic violence.”
Picca says protest is one mechanism for change, but it doesn’t always achieve it. She says the pandemic has made racial disparities even more visible. “Oftentimes protests are characterized as an “us vs. them” mentality, when truthfully there are a lot of nuances in the middle.” She points to protests last summer when some officers knelt alongside the protesters.
As the country awaits the Chauvin verdict, the Dayton police department writes: “The department regularly monitors current events happening around our state and across the country as well as any locally planned gatherings, events, or protests and adjusts staffing as appropriate.”
And a spokesperson for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office writes: “The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office supports the right to demonstrate peacefully, however, in the case that any protesting shifts to civil unrest following the verdict of the trial, the sheriff’s office has contingency plans in place to protect life, property, and maintain civil order.”
Picca says while the trial is being held elsewhere, protesting in the Miami Valley can still make a difference. “Even though we’re talking about a specific case in Minneapolis, it’s really highlighting those broader systemic inequalities.”
One law Professor says it’s difficult to strike a balance between maintaining order and protecting the trial process and respecting protest rights. But she says it’s essential that balance is well struck.