WYSO

Centerville Anti-Racism Rally Attracts Dozens Of Protesters And Police

Aug 20, 2017

Miami Township resident Brielle Maynor says it’s important for Americans to protest the current resurgence of white nationalists and neo-Nazi groups, and so-called “Unite the Right” rallies similar to the one that sparked violence in Charlottesville a week ago.
Credit Jess Mador / WYSO

No major incidents were reported on a day of multiple protests across the Miami Valley Saturday.

In Centerville, more than two dozen people gathered at a rally to honor the victims of recent attacks in Charlottesville and, organizers say, to call attention to former Centerville residents who allegedly participated in the Charlottesville white nationalist rally.

Centerville police have confirmed to WYSO the men no longer live in Centerville.

But Miami Township resident Brielle Maynor says it’s important for Americans to protest the current resurgence of white nationalists and neo-Nazi groups, and so-called “Unite the Right” rallies similar to the one that sparked violence in Charlottesville a week ago. 

“That’s not the country I’d want to leave for my children. I’d like us to be making progress on these questions of equality and justice for all. That’s all. It’s pretty simple. It should be pretty simple, but I guess it’s not and we keep having to have these conversations,” she says.  

The event was organized by the Dayton Chapter of the group Showing Up For Racial Justice. And it was part of a coordinated national day of action resulting in a handful of protests in cities around the country, including a large march in Boston.

SURJ organizer Ri Molnar said in a statement:

"SURJ Greater Dayton is invested in confronting white supremacy because it is harmful to everyone,” she says. “We stand behind Black Lives Matter organizing and want true racial equity in our world. We also know that racism erodes the souls of white people and invest in this work as an act of healing for our own hearts and communities. Please join us, there is a long road ahead.” 

The Centerville rally was originally planned to take place at the site of a 90-year-old Confederate monument in Franklin.

Organizers later relocated it to Centerville after city officials removed the monument late last week.

Last week, organizers said they had received threats from alleged white supremacist groups after announcing plans to protest the monument -- even after the monument was taken down. 

Molnar told WYSO details of the protest had been shared on white supremacist websites.

In preparation for Saturday's protest outside the Centerville municipal offices and the public library, a Centerville police spokesperson says the department called in extra units from surrounding cities to help secure the event.

Demonstrators with the anti-racism group SURJ Greater Dayton held a rally in Centerville on Saturday, Aug. 19. The event was organized in solidarity with the victims of the Aug. 12 attack at a white nationalist "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Credit Jess Mador / WYSO

Officers also restricted traffic in front of the protest area to one lane using nearly a dozen dump trucks, garbage trucks and other public works department vehicles as barriers.

Centerville resident Denny, who declined to give his last name, characterized the city's preparations for the rally as excessive, a waste of taxpayer resources.

He also says the ongoing protests in favor of removing Confederate monuments are misguided. 

“I think it’s ridiculous, the fact that they are wanting to tear down the monuments," he says.

"I think our monuments are important for history. And if you’re trying to get rid of our history, then they’re basically trying to turn this country back into a communist country, is the way I see it. The monuments can also be used as a reminder of the past. People have a right to them.”

He watched from library lawn as protesters walked with homemade signs and banners back and forth along the sidewalk.

Traffic inched along. Some drivers honked horns in support of the protesters' chants, which included several minutes of, "ban the Klan, take a stand." 

“Ban the Klan, take a stand. That’s amazing," says Courtney Csizma from Centerville.

Csizma was on her way to church when she saw the rally and decided to stay for a while. She stood in the shade wiping tears from her eyes and listening to the protesters.

“We are such a small city in Centerville. But it’s good to see everybody come out and show that they support nonviolence," she says.