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Opinion: ‘White supremacy has no place in our streets,’ Oregon District businesses owners say

Peaceful protesters marched through the Oregon District recently. MARSHALL GORBYSTAFF
Peaceful protesters marched through the Oregon District recently. MARSHALL GORBYSTAFF

Protesters in downtown Dayton mourned the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black victims of police brutality Saturday, May 30.

In the midst of this protest, armed white supremacists walked the Oregon District.

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They agitated and incited violence while preaching hate and distributing racist literature. Their presence in a city still grappling with the deaths of nine victims in last summer’s mass shooting was enough to cause business owners to close early out of concern for their staff and patrons.

White supremacy has no place in our streets. We stand against that hatred.

Their presence was jarring, but it presents us with an opportunity to reflect on our values-on who we are and what we want the Oregon District to represent.

To that end, the members of the Oregon District Business Association affirm the following values:

• We support Black Lives Matters. We recognize the need to support our black community, who have for too long been marginalized through overt and systemic racism. We work to call out and eliminate racism and we work to build an environment and an infrastructure that welcomes black businesses and customers because we recognize and celebrate the value of our Black community.

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• We support other marginalized communities. We support LGBTQ+ , immigrant, indigenous, and other disenfranchised communities for the same reasons we support Black Lives Matter. These communities have been targeted and brutalized, and we recognize the need to call out those actions, to work for systemic change, and to provide a space for members of these communities.

• We support the protesters and we are the protesters. We understand the calls for police reform, which minimally includes bias training, effective community oversight, and privileging deescalation tactics over use of force. The unnecessary and unprovoked use of tear gas on the district’s streets against peaceful civilians during the May 30 protest is a reminder that this is not an abstract issue that happens elsewhere. Rather, we recognize that there is work to be done in our community.

• We stand together to support the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We reject viewpoints that seek to divide us. Instead, we recognize that diversity of lived experiences makes us stronger; that we must work to ensure that all voices are present in the conversation; and that these voices are considered and included. We recognize and accept the work that needs to be done to make this vision a reality. Our board of trustees is working to provide an action plan for our businesses in order to fully realize this vision.

The Oregon District has long been where Dayton works, lives, shops, dines, and celebrates. We affirm the above values in order to strengthen that community and ensure that all Daytonians are welcome and have a place in the Oregon District.

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Members of the Oregon District Business Association Board of Trustees submitted this guest column. They are president Kyle Babirad, vice president Emily Mendenhall, secretary Andy Rowe, treasure Natalie Skilliter, Kait Gilcher, Dana Graham and Kevin Gray.