SHELBY — A Shelby man cited for disorderly conduct due to racist comments yelled at a group of Black Lives Matter protestors on June 10 has pleaded guilty to the charge.
Gregory S. Dick, 60, was due in court Monday at 9 a.m. after being issued a court summons June 24 for disorderly conduct. According to Shelby Municipal Court deputy clerk Trish Armstrong, Dick chose to waive the hearing by paying a $135 fine for the minor misdemeanor.
The Ohio Revised Code states that in lieu of a court hearing, a defendant can "appear in person at the office of the clerk of the court stated in the citation, sign a plea of guilty and a waiver of trial provision that is on the citation, and pay the total amount of the fine and costs."
Armstrong said the process was similar to paying a speeding ticket.
The charge of disorderly conduct that Dick pleaded guilty to states, "no person shall recklessly cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm to another by doing any of the following: making unreasonable noise or an offensively coarse utterance, gesture or display, or communicating unwarranted and grossly abusive language to any person; insulting, taunting or challenging another, under circumstances in which that conduct is likely to provoke a violent response."
The charge stems from an incident on June 10 during a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Shelby. In a video taken by protestor Kristi Mitchell, as the group walking up Main Street chants "Black Lives Matter" an individual is heard yelling "KKK."
When Mitchell turns the camera towards the individual, the person is revealed to be Gregory Dick. He then yells, "KKK town right here brother;" when the person recording advised he was on live, Dick responded, "Get your black asses out of here."
Shelby Police Chief Lance Combs prepared the incident report and served Dick the summons on June 24, accompanied by Capt. Dave Mack. An investigative report written by Combs stated Dick told the officers he did not agree with the summons.
Combs said he was most familiar with the planning of the event. He issued the permit to protest organizer Lizzy Campo after she contacted the police department June 6 to request a permit to stage a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest at the gazebo downtown.
"I knew that this would be a difficult issue for some people," Combs said. "I felt it important as the head of the agency to handle this directly instead of putting a supervisor or officer in a difficult position; I feel that I set the tone for what is acceptable behavior, both inside the department, and within the community."
Combs said the section of law cited in the summons was very clear, and "very much applies to the actions that day."
"This is not a matter of supporting or siding with any group or organization," he said. "I was not directed to do this and no pressure was applied from any individual or group to do so. It is also not a personal issue against Mr. Dick."
The incident also prompted a response from Shelby Mayor Steve Schag at the June 15 City Council meeting, who declared "on behalf of all law-abiding citizens of Shelby, let me state unequivocally that we collectively abhor and renounce hatred, racial bigotry and racial discrimination."
Combs believes the incident and subsequent summons will set the tone for what he believes is acceptable behavior.
"I have heard a lot of talk about Mr Dick being able to exercise his right to free speech. No right granted by the Constitution is limitless," Combs said.
"I explained it recently this way: if I went to a sporting event and yelled the same language when a black athlete was shooting a free throw, or got up to bat, or made a critical tackle, I would expect that not many there, including police officers working the event would be supporting my first amendment right."
Combs also clarified that the group of Black Lives Matter protestors did not yell anything derogatory, racist or inflammatory at Dick or anyone else the day of the protest.
"Their behavior was not hate speech or threatening," he said. "Had it been, they would have subjected themselves to the same type of scrutiny as Mr. Dick.
"I find it ironic that people were angry at the event organizer saying that Shelby is a racist town in the news, but support the free speech of the language toward the group."