WATSONTOWN — Watsontown’s chief of police believes those with “If Not Us, Then Who?” were well organized in their planning of a protest Sunday in the borough.

After organizing previous peaceful protests in Milton, Mifflinburg and Lewisburg, the group held a protest Sunday in Watsontown to draw attention to racial injustice and inequality.

Unlike the other protests, Sunday’s event drew a group of counter protestors, some of whom were armed.

“Our main mission was just to ensure the safety of both the protestors, the public in general and our police department,” Watsontown Chief Rodney Witherite said. “We wanted to make sure that everyone was safe and got their message out.”

He said there were some “tense moments” and “negative interactions” between the two groups of protestors.

“We had to call in more (police) to help out,” Witherite said. “We did shut down three blocks (of Main Street). That was a safety concern, because of traffic coming toward (protestors).”

One individual was arrested.

“We had a female grab one of the protestors by the face,” Witherite said, adding that charges will be filed.

Those with “If Not Us, Then Who?” — who are from Milton — reached out to Witherite to inform him of their plans in advance of the protest.

“’If Not Us, Then Who?,’ their organizers were very easy to coordinate with,” Witherite said. “They were very organized. If they needed something, we communicated with them very well.

“On site, they were good about, if we needed some people moved,” he continued. “They weren’t disrespectful to us at all.”

Witherite noted that individuals from both groups of protestors were openly carrying firearms, but were not in violation of any laws.

“It went well for us, in controlling the crowd,” he said. “I had people on standby from other departments, particularly Pennsylvania State Police, the Union County Sheriff’s Office. We already had Northumberland County Sheriffs, Milton Borough Police Department (on scene).”

In addition, Witherite said Watsontown’s Department of Public Works, as well as fire police from the Warrior Run area and Milton fire departments assisted with traffic control.

Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email kevin@standard-journal.com.

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