A guy with a bleeding face, cops and protestors

“There was nothing that I can tell was improper from that incident,” said Clermont County (Bethel) prosecutor Vince Farris about the sucker punch to the back of the head of a peaceful protester.

Since Sunday, June 14, the small town of Bethel, Ohio, became a dangerous place for peaceful anti-racist protesters after four different biker clubs arrived on the scene to confront the protesters, some of whom were physically assaulted.

The Free Pressspoke to several of the protesters who easily identified four different sets of biker vests among those throwing sucker punches and spewing the n-word. Also disconcerting is that bikers and Bethel police in several videos appear to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder facing down protesters.

“At times the police seemed too chummy with the bikers,” said one peaceful protester, a Bethel resident who was sucker punched several times in the face. “I saw police pat them on the back.”

“The bikers were ripping hats off our heads and ripping up our signs. They started grabbing stuff out of our pockets and pushing us, and slapping us in the back of our heads,” said another protester. “They threatened to rape me.”

Another protester, however, said even though the police appeared to act indifferent, if they hadn’t been there “we may have been killed.” Several protesters said they are now being threatened online.

One video shows a protester being punched from behind in the back of the head in front of police. Protesters claim one Bethel officer witnessed the punch. Clermont County (Bethel) prosecutor Vince Farris told the Free Press the officer said otherwise, and did not see the punch.

“If you look at the video closely you will see the officer turn to the side right when he got hit, that’s from the victim, he told that to the police. That case is being investigated,” said Farris.

Nevertheless, Farris offered this contradicting statement: “There was nothing that I can tell was improper from that incident. If you look closely at it (you can tell), and you have the statement from the victim.”

But he added, “We will file charges on any criminal act by either side of the protest if we can prove a criminal case. I don’t care which side of the protest you’re on.”

Farris said if anyone has information on who sucker punched this protester from behind to call his office (513-732-7313).

Eventually Bethel police reined in the bikers, and on Monday there were reports online stating police surrounded protesters so to protect them. Several protesters and anti-protesters were charged with disorderly conduct over the two days, as told to us by Farris.

In the wake of the Bethel protests questions are circulating: Why did four different biker clubs (gangs?) show up at this particular protest while leaving many other small-town Ohio protests alone?

The Free Press called Bethel Police Chief Steve Teague but he has not responded. Several protesters said Teague was stone-face during Sunday’s protest and did not “offer and sympathy or support.”

Some protesters told the Free Press they believe the bikers may have been tipped-off by Facebook posts promoting the protest which was held in front of a church.

“Somebody invited biker gangs, four different ones, to ‘protect’ the town from protesters,” said one protester who is receiving threats. “How they found out about it is a very good question.”

Another protester said its obvious how the bikers found out.

“The more I think about it, our POTUS uses such violent rhetoric, and he started rumors about busing protestors into small towns from the cities, so all the racists came out of the woodwork to protect the town that they don’t even live in,” they said. “I’m starting to think the bikers were just a distraction so that the locals could get away with attacking us. But you’d think when they saw we were students and teachers, members of the community in front of a church that they would’ve backed off. But they pushed harder. I remember hearing the n-word so many times. And there were people of color there.”

The Free Press is actively working this story and will have updates hopefully later this week.


John Lasker won a Project Censored award in 2012 for his work into the murders of over 15 female soldiers and the military’s efforts to make their deaths appear accidental or suicides. Many of the victims were women of color barely out of their teens.