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About 80 supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement were met by some 700 mostly white counter-demonstrators in a small Ohio town Sunday, as racial tensions continue to boil over around the country and media reports of the incidents are often politically skewed.
As reported by the UK’s Daily Mail, many of the counter-demonstrators were armed with firearms, but others carried baseball bats and other potential weapons to face off against the much smaller group of BLM protesters in the town of Bethel.
The counter-demonstrators were made up of men and women, some from motorcycle gangs and others from “Back the Blue” groups which are supportive of police officers. Many shouted, “Blue lives matter!” and “All lives matter!”
The Daily Mail’s report including “shocking video footage” showing “a BLM protester being surrounded and violently punched in the back of the head by a counterprotester in front of two cops who stood by and did nothing.”
The face-off and occasional clashes between the two groups lasted into Monday, the paper said, which led the Bethel police department to declare a curfew in the town of about 2,830 people. Several demonstrators were eventually arrested.
The protest on Sunday was planned by a group calling itself “Bethel’s Solidarity with Black Lives” and was intended to be peaceful, the Daily Mail reported. Event planners said they expected about 25 people would show up to protest against alleged racial inequality.
“However, it amassed to around 800 people as 80 protesters found themselves confronted by around 700 members of motorcycle groups, Back the Blue organizations and Second Amendment advocates,” the paper reported.
Many of the counter-demonstrators are believed to have come from out of town. Several were seen carrying rifles, baseball bats, and clubs. Some wore clothing supportive of President Donald Trump.
The report noted that about 250 motorcycles swooped into the protest area at one point, which forced BLM demonstrators to give up their position and retreat. Many of them accused the counter-demonstrators of inciting “hate and violence.” Local police are investigating around 10 separate incidents.
The Daily Mail’s report appears to be sympathetic to the BLM protesters, as the report repeatedly refers to the counter-demonstrators as being “white” and armed. Also, the report focused on a single incident — a BLM demonstrator being sucker-punched in the back of the head by a “man wearing a confederate flag bandanna.”
Also, the paper seemed put off by the lack of response by police officers to the incident.
“Bethel Chief of Police Steve Teague appeared to defend the actions of his cops saying during a virtual council meeting Monday that the attention of the officer in front of the victim had been pulled away,” the Daily Mail noted, adding that the victim initially decided against pressing charges but changed his mind on Monday.
The report also highlighted a second BLM supporter who was allegedly sucker-punched by a counter-demonstrator, as he was pictured with blood on his face.
Also, the Daily Mail included quotes from city officials that condemned the counter-demonstrators but did not quote any of them.
The paper did, however, include a single citation from social media, in which someone posted, “We’re going to Bethel, we’ll take care of what they didn’t take care of yesterday.” It’s not at all clear from the report what the post meant because there is no additional context provided.
The report also included a quoted statement from the mayor’s office.
“I am completely against behavior that is illegal or infringes on any American’s constitutional rights. Some of the law-breaking behavior that we have seen over the last couple of days is appalling and disgusting and does not reflect the values of our community,” Bethel Mayor Jay Noble said in a statement Monday.
The report also quoted one city councilman, Ron Dunn, who thanked BLM demonstrators for ‘showing restraint.’
“To have such hatred and filthy things spewed at you and just to take it is very foreign to most people,” Dunn said.
It’s unclear from the report why so many counter-demonstrators descended on the town after learning about the BLM protest.
However, USA Today actually provided some context: Residents of Bethel were concerned that the same kind of BLM-linked rioting and violence they’d seen elsewhere around the country was about to descend on them.
The paper reported:
Donna Henson sat on her front porch this weekend, as she always does when the weather is nice, and watched dozens of her neighbors walk by with bats in their hands or guns strapped to their sides. …
Henson, 78, figured they’d heard the same rumors she had, the ones about busloads of people coming to her town to join small Black Lives Matter protests on Sunday and Monday in Bethel, Ohio. Word was hundreds could be arriving from Cincinnati or Columbus or Detroit.
Henson was afraid, and she guessed her neighbors were, too. If they didn’t do something, if they didn’t show up armed and ready, the protests and unrest they’d seen on TV for weeks on far off American streets could come here, to Bethel, a village of 2,800.
“In Bethel, peaceful protesters would be seen by some as no different than looters and rioters. They represented chaos, the problems of other people from other places,” the paper added.
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