BETHEL, Ohio — Nearly two weeks after the quiet rural town of Bethel erupted in confrontations between groups of protesters, the conversations about police, race and small-town America continued Saturday.
A group of people met in Burke Park to try and turn disagreements into a dialogue. The purpose of today’s event is to create a space where people with different points of view can come together and talk rather than shout at one another from opposite sides of the street.
“What I saw was awful,” event organizer Rachel Lamb said about the confrontations weeks ago. “It was an awful representation of small towns. I grew up in Clermont County my whole life.”
Videos shot at that time show counter protesters at a Black Lives Matter demonstration using racial slurs and pushing people on June 14th in Bethel. Days of protests followed in the rural Clermont County village – which led Lamb to organize Saturday’s conversation.
“You are kind of in a bubble out here in a small town,” she said. “There’s no diversity”
It was a small crowd – about 23 people – most of whom either live in Bethel, grew up nearby or have similar connections to the area. Others came from different parts of the Tri-State.
“It’s very difficult to change someone’s mind, especially change someone’s heart, if you’re yelling at them through a bullhorn,” event organizer Brian Garry said. “We’re both human beings.”
Everyone at Saturday’s discussion supports Black Lives Matter, but organizers did reach out to counter protesters over the phone. Lamb said growing up in rural Clermont County where she didn’t experience much diversity made her realize the importance of conversations like the one on Saturday.
“So, we need to start talking about it,” Lamb said. “We need to start talking about racism. We need to start talking about what’s going on in our country. Whether it affects our little bubble or not.”
Lamb’s daughter, Liberty, also had a hand in organizing the event. She said she just wants to see something positive come out of the conflict of the earlier demonstrations.
“I just want things to get fixed I guess,” Liberty Lamb said. “People to be not judged for their skin but for their personality and who they are as a person, not what they look like.”
Those at Saturday’s discussion hope to see more conversations moving forward that include people with different perspectives.