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Bethel under curfew on second night of protests, counter-protests

Demonstrators, police peacefully dispersed as curfew began
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Posted at 8:01 PM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-15 23:20:28-04

BETHEL, Ohio — The village of Bethel has ordered a 9 p.m. curfew Monday night as groups of Black Lives Matter protesters and counter-protesters lined up in the rural Clermont County town. The curfew will last until 6 a.m. Tuesday.

"The need for this order arises from the threat of continued and escalating violence, the need for security and enforcement support for the Village of Bethel Police Department, and the need to protect the village's first responders from the spread of COVID-19," the curfew order read.

It does not apply to people traveling to or from work, people experiencing homelessness or those seeking medical attention. The curfew can also be extended day-to-day until officials rescind it.

Protesters and police began dispersing as the curfew went into effect, a different scene from the hundreds of protesters rallying along Main Street hours before.

People could be seen holding signs and gathering outside the Bethel Historical Society and Museum. Some wielded bats, and others toted guns.

Bethel Police Chief Steve Teague said two people had been arrested for disorderly conduct and another for being drunk in the roadway Monday evening.

“For the most part, so far today a lot of shouting, a lot of sides expressed. Most part been fairly calm. We have a lot more presence here today than we had here yesterday, so the scene is much more quiet," Teague said.

With 20 years experience in law enforcement, Teague said he's "never seen anything like this happen" in Bethel.

“If you asked me a week ago if any of this is going to come to Bethel I’d say never. I’m still in shock of it being here," he said.

On Sunday, peaceful protests against racism and police brutality expected to top 100 people grew to 800 as counter-protesters -- some carrying rifles and others supporting “Back the Blue” groups -- arrived on East Plane Street.

Videos circulated on social media and YouTube showed screaming matches, verbal harassment and physical confrontations Sunday evening.

MORE: Videos show Bethel anti-BLM demonstrators using racial slurs, intimidating protesters

That's why on Monday night, Dawn Coombs said she saw people watching each other's backs for trouble.

“After seeing the news on the protest in Bethel, I felt compelled to come and speak to anyone who would hear me," said Coombs, who lives nearby. "That this community is made up of peaceful and loving people, who believe in peaceful protests."

Hannah Barger and her sister Hailey were part of a group of several dozen protesters surrounded by law enforcement Monday. Hannah said she was upset more people weren't supporting the Black Lives Matter rallies against racism and police brutality.

"It’s embarrassing on this town’s part," she said. "This town is disgusting and it’s a disgrace to say that I’m from here. I don’t even want to say I’m from here anymore.”

Denver Hinkston, one of several hundred counter-protesters and a Moscow, Ohio, resident, said there's "no reason" the protests should have come to Bethel.

“You can have a conversation, but don’t put 'Black Lives Matter' in it. Put 'Everyone’s lives matter' in it. That’s what gets everybody all upset," he said.