To the Editor: There was a lot of shouting at the fracking-related event at the Athens Community Center yesterday (Nov. 18).
Citizens were expressing their opinions about a proposal by the federal government's Bureau of Land Management to lease about 31,000 acres of the Wayne National Forest for drilling by the oil and gas industry. The great majority of the people in the large room where the Forest Service held the event were shouting to express their opposition to the proposal.
None of the shouting done by either side was directed against anyone personally. It was simply the kind of more-or-less orchestrated shouting done at peaceful demonstrations. To my knowledge, nobody did anything more aggressive than throw paper airplanes.
Therefore, I believe that the violent behavior of one Forest Service officer who stood near me was entirely unjustified and outrageous. I witnessed this man behaving aggressively, pushing people and wielding a stick. He looked ready to beat people severely. Other people had to hold him back. He is the official in the photograph on Greg Kessler's Facebook page. I am discussing the same incident described in the letter by Carl Edward Smith III.
After the Forest Service officials decided to close down their event, a number of people gathered in the hallways or in other rooms. I talked with some people about the incident involving the violent Forest Service officer, and I talked about the drilling proposal with others (both pro-fracking and anti-fracking). I also listened to several discussions between people on both sides of the issue. Despite their passionate feelings, everyone was self-controlled and civil.
Some citizens who had taken part in the orchestrated shouting of "No!" to the fracking proposal told me that they and many others had already spent four years speaking quietly in meetings, writing letters and submitting petitions to officials of the Wayne National Forest, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, etc. But the officials had simply refused to listen or respond appropriately.
Now the citizens were fed up, no longer fooled into accepting an "open house" or "public meeting" (as distinct from a proper legal public hearing), and no longer willing to waste time on one-on-one conversations with officials who would just politely evade questions or claim not to have the relevant knowledge. So, these citizens shouted in order to get this message across to the officials.
The shouting by the citizens opposing the fracking proposal was directed mainly at the officials and was not aggressive. The shouting by the advocates for the fracking proposal was directed at the citizens opposing it and was not aggressive. As far as I saw, there was no aggressive conduct on the part of anyone, except the one violent Forest Service officer.
Alyssa Bernstein, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Applied and Professional Ethics