Story at a glance
- Black Lives Matter protesters clashed with counter protesters in Bethel, Ohio.
- What was initially a small demonstration became violent as counter-protestors brought weapons.
The bipartisan divide characterizing U.S. politics was on full display in Bethel, a small town outside of Cincinnati, when a Black Lives Matter protest was disrupted by counter-protestors, armed with firearms and other weaponry. A reported 800 people composed the crowd between both sides.
SHARE SHARE SHARE— BlackLivesMatter✊ (@b0ywxnder) June 15, 2020
Why doesn’t this have media attention? Armed Thugs and Trump supporters counter protesting and threatening innocent Black Life Matters protestors in Bethel Ohio . #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/j61weTEFrP
The protest, which occurred last Sunday, was organized by a teacher named Alicia Gee to show solidarity with the other civil rights demonstrations occurring nationwide after the death of George Floyd.
"I guess in my mind, we only think about protests happening in the city. I've always gone to cities to protest. And then to see that something was happening in Hazard – I was like, if Hazard, Kentucky, can have a protest, Bethel can have something," Gee told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Gee’s planned protest drew roughly 80 participants, who were later outnumbered by counter-protestors supporting police officers amid outcries against police violence. Local news channel Fox 19, as well as primary documentation, showed counter protesters brandishing weapons like baseball bats and guns.
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Eventually, violence erupted between the two groups, resulting in a curfew for 9:00 p.m. that evening. Multiple arrests had been made by that time.
"These groups included several motorcycle gangs, back the blue groups, and second amendment advocates," Bethel police officials said in the statement, per the Cincinnati Enquirer.
"Towards the latter part of the event, the various other groups began to move toward the Bethel’s Solidarity with Black Lives Demonstration area," police said in the same statement. "This resulted in approximately 10 incidents. Those involved were removed from the scene and there are ongoing investigations concerning those incidents."
One potential incident was caught on camera, and eventually retweeted by Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D). It showcases a Black Lives Matter demonstrator peacefully protesting, only to be assaulted by counter protesters.
When addressing a police officer at the scene who appeared to witness the assault, the officer did not make an arrest or intervene. This prompted Brown to call the officer’s actions “shameful.”
A peaceful protester in Bethel, Ohio was sucker-punched in the head right in front of police officers – and they did nothing about it.— Sherrod Brown (@SenSherrodBrown) June 17, 2020
These officers’ inaction is shameful. This is why we need the Justice in Policing Act - to hold police accountable.
Investigations are largely still ongoing, but residents appear distraught after the violent confrontations.
“I knew there were counter-protests but I never dreamed that grown men would grab our signs and our person. It felt like we were walking a gauntlet,” Lois Dennis, one of the Bethel residents who protested alongside Gee, said. “I saw a side of America that shamed me.”
READ MORE ABOUT THE GEORGE FLOYD PROTESTS