Butler County officials react to protests, including large peaceful march in Hamilton

Butler County officials are reacting to protests, including one locally, that were part of a nationwide outbreak of rallies over the death of George Floyd while he was being arrested by Minneapolis police.

The scale of the coast-to-coast protests has rivaled the historic demonstrations of the civil rights and Vietnam War eras. At least 4,400 people have been arrested for such offenses as stealing, blocking highways and breaking curfew, according to a count compiled by The Associated Press.

The unrest threatened to overshadow peaceful protests, including a Sunday protest in Hamilton that drew hundreds and remained non-violent.

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“I would say that we are seeing something playing out right now that is quite remarkable in the modern history of American politics,” said Miami University political science professor John Forren. “At least as far back as President Roosevelt’s ‘fireside chats’ during the 1930s and 1940s, Americans have traditionally turned to the President for primary leadership during times of crisis.”

Forren said the nation has seen it “over and over,” including President Ronald Reagan’s response to the Challenger disaster, President Bill Clinton’s response to the Oklahoma City bombing, President George W. Bush’s response to 9/11 and President Barack Obama’s response to the Sandy Hook shootings.

“Right now, though, Americans are quite divided, and we have a president who has chosen not to play, at least to this point, the ‘uniter-in-chief’ role that is typically occupied during crises by the occupant of the White House,” Forren said. “This, in turn, has allowed state and local officials — mostly governors and mayors — to emerge around the nation as the primary face of the governmental response to the crisis.”

Butler County GOP Executive Chairman Todd Hall said he believes that people have a right to protest when they feel an injustice has been done.

“Just like last month, when people protested their rights had been violated over lockdown orders, so it is the same today over racial injustice,” Hall said. “Protests are distinctly American. However, rioting and looting are not peaceful protests and have no place in our society.”

Furthermore, he said, “violent actions just deepen the divide.”

“The George Floyd video displayed true cruelty and should be a wake up call to our society,” Hall said. “The video bothered me greatly, as it did countless others. But we must realize, as (President) John F. Kennedy stated, to ‘let us not be blind to our differences, but let us direct our attention to our common interests and to the means which those differences can be resolved.’ We must be willing to discuss the common ground and understand that, under our skin color, we are all humans with the same worth and potential.

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“We must appreciate diversity while realizing that we are really linked together as a human race, more similar than different, and more to gain by finding our commonalities and relating better with each other.”

Butler County Democratic Party Executive Chairman Brian Hester said "equating Americans protesting the unjustified and cruel murder of an African-American citizen by police to conservatives whining about having to wear masks during an epidemic is the tone deafness we’ve come to expect from the Republican Party."

"We need to restore the kind of police reforms that worked after Ferguson. Sadly, President Trump walked away from those proven policies," Hester said. "We need to stop criticizing how people of color protest. Nobody died when (Colin Kaepernick) took a knee. Maybe we should have listened then.

White Americans need to listen to African-American experiences, learn from them and resolve to stamp out systematic racism, Hester said.

"Ignoring the problem or vilifying protesters won’t work," he said. "Without justice for all, there is no true peace or order for anyone. Until we recognize that and live by it, the cycles of violence and divisions will continue to permeate our communities.”

Fairfield Twp. Assistant Police Chief Capt. Doug Lanier said his department is preparing to respond to any protests.

“We work with other agencies, we have equipment,” Lanier said. “We monitor intel. I don’t want to speak for any other jurisdiction, but as far as the township goes we have any information of planned protests or demonstrations.”

Lanier said anything beyond peaceful protests or demonstration, which he said “could pop up anywhere,” will see the department reacting accordingly.

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“We have people to protect, we have property to protect and safety comes first,” he said. “Peaceful demonstrations and peaceful protests are one thing, violence, looting and damaging (property), and hurting people, that’s a different ball game, and if that occurs we’re going to be swift and quick and we’ll deal with those (people) who do that.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.