BETHEL, Ohio ― In response to combative protests and counter-protests in Bethel over the past few weeks, a group of about 20 people gathered at Burke Park in Bethel.
The event, called “Let’s Talk! About Recent Protests in Bethel,” was created with the hopes of creating an open discussion about racial and social issues.
Organizer Rachel Lamb said she was disheartened by what she saw during protests that turned violent last Sunday.
“Like other people I was disappointed,” Lamb said. “I was scared for the protesters that were there. And I was just disappointed with the miscommunication with the counter protesters.”
So Lamb got on Facebook and organized people to come together to have a conversation to hear one another out — hoping for change.
“What we really need out here is just to talk to each other,” Lamb said. "Yelling across the street at each other doesn’t do any good.”
Lamb said she was hopeful both sides involved would show up, but on Saturday, that was not the case.
She thinks Bethel, which is a small town in a rural part of Southern Ohio, is the perfect place to have this discussion.
“I think that small towns is exactly where we need to be having this conversation about systemic racism, about police brutality, because we get in our own little bubble out here,” she said. “And we don’t think about what’s going on in the rest of the world. Diversity is not good in small towns.”
Brian Garry, an advisor for the event, said he sees how these issues can cause conflict, but that conflict is mainly rooted in misunderstanding of each other’s viewpoints. Ultimately he hopes everyone can rally together because we are all more alike than we may think.
“We’re all Americans,” Garry said. “We all fly under the same flag. We’re all from the same country. There’s many things that we can all agree on. We all want a safe community.”
And despite the fact the turnout wasn’t as big as expected and only one side of the social debate showed up, Lamb said she hopes it can be productive toward changing mindsets and fostering growth in Bethel.
“The end goal for today’s event is to heal and be more welcoming, you know, to other races― specifically in Bethel, because of the hurt that has happened here in the past couple of weeks,” Lamb said. “But I would say my end goal entirely would be to start conversations in small towns all over America, to really start talking about racism and holding each other accountable.”