Airmen at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, who live near the site of a planned Ku Klux Klan rally in downtown Dayton Saturday have been ordered to leave their homes that afternoon unless they get their commander’s permission to stay.
Airmen who remain in their homes without their commander’s permission could face disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
According to a Thursday memo from Col. Thomas Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing commander, which was posted on the unofficial Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page, the area of the Klan rally has been placed off-limits to service members from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Air Force officials confirmed the authenticity of the memo.
Dayton authorities are concerned about the potential for violence stemming from the white supremacist group’s rally and have urged people to stay away. Local groups such as the Better Dayton Coalition and the Dayton Unit NAACP are organizing counter-protests.
Service members who live within the nine square-block area surrounding Courthouse Square, bordered by West First and West Fourth streets and South Wilkinson and South Jefferson streets, have been ordered to tell their commander what they plan to do during that six-hour period, “for accountability purposes,” and must receive their commander’s clearance to stay in their residences.
Service members who enter or remain within the off-limits area during those hours “are subject to action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice including, but not limited to, Article 92.” That UCMJ article governs offenses stemming from a service member’s failure to obey an order or regulation.
Sherman said in the memo that establishing the off-limits area is intended “to help maintain good order and discipline, health, morale, safety and welfare of service members assigned to and/or located at” Wright-Patterson and the surrounding area.
Family members of troops, as well as civilian personnel and their family members, “are strongly recommended to avoid the temporary off-limits area,” the memo said.
Daryl Mayer, a spokesman for the 88th, confirmed the memo ordered service members who live in that area to notify their commander of their plans and receive clearance to stay at home.
“Service members are expected to notify their commander and their commander will exercise judgment based on the facts and circumstances of a service member’s situation," Mayer said.
WOSU, a local public radio station, reported Tuesday that several streets and intersections in the Courthouse Square area are being closed this weekend.
Dayton’s official website has posted an FAQ about the event that said individuals will be permitted to carry firearms at the rally, in accordance with Ohio law.
“Many people in our community will feel a strong need to be present downtown to exercise their right to express themselves,” the official Dayton website said. “We are going to do everything we can to protect people who live and work downtown and choose to come to the rally. If you don’t have to be downtown, the area should be avoided. There are no guarantees for personal safety in a civil unrest environment.”
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.