Judging from the vitriol some locals hurled at anti-racism protesters in nearby Watsontown two Sundays ago, we have a long way to go in bridging the divide in our country.

The protesters want justice, peace, freedom from harassment. 

Some Watsontown residents said they were embarrassed by the ugliness of the “counterprotesters,” who taunted, cursed at, insulted and told the protesters to leave town. 

Why so much anger?

Fortunately, the arguments did not turn physical and cooler heads prevailed.

The organizers of the Watsontown protest — a group of brothers and friends from Milton, “If Not Us, Then Who?” — held peaceful protests in Milton, Mifflinburg and Lewisburg over the past several weeks. The protests, like those across the country in support of Black Lives Matter, were sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes on May 25.

The explosive reaction to the all-too-real video, which followed a series of deaths of Blacks during interactions with police, set off the protests, marches and riots nationwide.

The protests are about more than Black men dying in police custody. The counter-protesters likely haven’t been followed in stores, pulled over by police because they looked suspicious, called hurtful names, ignored when they tried to make changes quietly.

One woman at Sunday’s protest in Watsontown questioned why the police would allow the protest rather than just clear out the protesters. In that instance, the whole First Amendement thing sort of gets in the way, Protesters had a right to “free speech.” Not to mention “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”

There were some victories. Individuals from both sides met and talked and even agreed with each other on some points.

Those conversations must be the key takeaway. That’s a starting point. 

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Danville News Editor Joe Sylvester and Managing Editor Bill Bowman.

Recommended for you