Last week I attended the YOUNG conference in Youngstown Nov. 30. It was designed to cover different facets of the Marcellus and Utica shale drilling boom taking over Ohio.

I knew there would be protesters, but part of me wasn’t expecting what I viewed at the conference. I knew they would be protesting outside of the Covelli Center, and I expected them to slip inside past security.

What I wasn’t expecting was the behavior of some of them.

I believe in free speech, obviously, and I believe that everyone has the right to his own opinion. What I don’t believe is that it’s acceptable to be rude and ignorant in a public venue.

This is what happened with some of the protesters from the Stop Fracking Ohio group.

I was sitting in the audience listening to Attorney Eric Johnson when two women came into the seating area. I didn’t think much about it at first, but then I noticed their whispering back and forth and the red sweaters they had on. (I had done some research before attending the event and noticed they were told to wear the color red to protest.)

As Johnson ended his part of the program and turned to take questions from the audience, I noticed a man get into line. For some reason, he grabbed my attention.

And then I found out why. He asked one question and stood in front of the microphone. He didn’t move. Then he asked a second. Then a third and this time when he didn’t get the answer he was looking for, he started raising his voice.

Security came and surrounded the area. The man was asked to give others a turn and refused. He then started yelling his beliefs, while others stood in line patiently wanting to ask questions about gas leases and other legal matters regarding the drilling.

Then the attention turned to the women in front of me. The one had gotten up to use the microphone, while the second one started yelling banter at Johnson and how her rights were being taken away.

It was an uncomfortable situation and it got worse. I noticed the woman sitting there had a mason jar with a muddy type of liquid in it.

I’m not going to lie, my mind started to consider the possibilities of what the liquid was and how I could get a little farther away without causing a scene. I probably wouldn’t have thought much about the jar of liquid, but the behavior of screaming at the speaker concerned me.

I was grateful when a security guard showed up and demanded the mason jar. The woman of course refused to give it to him at first. She said it was her right to have the mason jar. I’m sure it was supposed to be a sample of contaminated water and my worries were unfounded.

I guess my overall feeling from the protest was that while these protesters were inside causing havoc, the protesters who appeared outside were a little more calm and a lot less ignorant.

The group marched along the sidewalk and then disappeared again as they crossed the street and headed back from where they came from.

I think those three protesters could have gotten their point across without causing a scene and causing the question and answer period to be shut down. It’s a shame they felt they needed to jump to such a level in an attempt to get their point across.

Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses with her husband, Kurt. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism.
Kristy Foster Seachrist
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