Organizers in Bethel, Ohio—a small town with around 2,800 residents—attempted to put on a peaceful, relatively small Black Lives Matter demonstration on Sunday only to have it overrun by armed counterprotesters who came by the hundreds to “All Lives Matter” all over their parade.
Bethel resident Alicia Gee posted about the event she helped organize on her Facebook page.
“Today I’m waking up preparing for a demonstration that is long overdue in my little town,” Gee wrote. “A demonstration to show my neighbors there are people who care, to show my very monochromatic town that Black Lives Matter and that being able to point out our black neighbors as a reason why we are ‘just fine’ is never the thing to do.
“I’ve lived my whole life in my small town and never once have I felt I could truly and fully stand up for what I believe to be true. The events of the last few weeks, sparked by the murder of George and Breonna and Ahmed, has made it perfectly clear to me its time for my comfort to be put by the wayside…”
Unfortunately, Gee and other attendees of the demonstration found out the hard way what black people have known all along: white people are still racist as fuck and nothing brings out white fragility like a Black Lives Matter demonstration.
From the Washington Post:
But the 80 or so expected demonstrators ended up dwarfed Sunday afternoon by some 700 counterprotesters — motorcycle gangs, “back the blue” groups and proponents of the Second Amendment, village officials said. Some carried rifles, a local news station reported, while others brought baseball bats and clubs. Police say they are investigating about 10 “incidents” from the clashes that followed, including a demonstrator being punched in the head.
According to Fox 19, there were about 10 violent altercations but no arrests were made because police were so overwhelmed that they had to prioritize keeping order and keeping people safe.
“If you would’ve asked me a week ago if any of this would come to Bethel, I would’ve said never,” Bethel Police Chief Steve Teague told reporters. “I’m still kind of in shock of it being here.”
“It’s kind of amazing how quick social media spreads,” Teague said. “We were told this morning they were bussing in protestors. We’re given screenshots from social media with some guys saying, ‘We’re going to Bethel, we’ll take care of what they didn’t take care of yesterday.’”
Tensions hadn’t calmed much when protests continued the next day so the city’s mayor, Jay Noble, imposed a 9 p.m. curfew citing “the threat of continued and escalating violence,” the Post reports. Five arrests were made on Monday.
This prompted Gee to post a video to warn people that “it’s not safe” to be in Bethel.
“It is not a time for any type of Black Lives Matter supporters to be in Bethel,” she said. Gee also called on the mayor to “condemn the violence and the hatred” that they saw Sunday. According to WCPO 9, Noble did respond to Gee’s call saying, “When it comes to the violence part and breaking the laws, I do condemn.”
The fact that so many people came out—many armed with guns and bats and many rumored to have bussed in from all over the state, according to Fox 19—just to disrupt a small demonstration and shout down the idea of black lives mattering shows how far we still have to go. It also shows how easily white fragility can be weaponized and how quickly it can turn peace into violence and chaos.