(Lehrton, MS) Downtown Lehrton erupted into a full-scale riot Monday night. The violence and ferocity of the protesters caught the Lehrton police as well as the sheriff's department off guard, understaffed, and unprepared.
Ever since Zane Hodge, the locally popular athlete, was sentenced to a massive fine, stripped of several world titles, and banished from Big ASS Endurance for a period of not less than one year, protests have been constant but peaceful. That all changed when one of the members of the Barber Shop tossed a rock through the window of the Lehrton Police Department. It was like a great dam burst, but instead of sending water downstream, rioting, fighting, burning, and destruction ensued.
In short order, the streets, already full of protesters carrying signs that read things like, "Hodge Was Framed," "The Russians Hacked Hodge," and "Hang Randy Beets," were set ablaze. A small group of masked men rolled some eighteen-wheeler tires onto the east end of Greasy Street and set them on fire. Within minutes, the west end of Lehrton's most trafficked thoroughfare was similarly set ablaze.
Firearms were pulled from pickup trucks and blast after shotgun blast went off, many into the air, but I witnessed one of the Barber Shop crew shoot out the plate glass window of City Hall. Several stop signs were also rudely treated by the Barber Shop. The confused police watched in fear as trash cans were toppled from the sidewalks onto the streets, advertising billboards shot, and a squad car keyed.
When the highway patrol showed up to try to restore order, James Smootie released a caged raccoon onto Greasy Street and not long after that several pickup tailgates dropped and the coon hounds were set free. At least thirty dogs bawled and tracked the frightened coon, knocking over pedestrians and causing panic to an already wild setting.
The cheerleaders from the Lehrton High were on the sidewalks cheering and chanting for Hodge to be freed. When asked why they thought Hodge, who was not in jail, needed to be free, their reply was: "Because Beets is a jerk."
The Barber Shop, being mostly creeping-old men, soon wore themselves out and sat down to listen to the dogs run. The violence ended when the hounds treed the coon in City Park and the Barber Shop hobbled over along with the Lehrton County Coon Hunters Club, leaving the streets littered and burning but abandoned, save the cheerleaders who were by then cheering, "What do we want? Beets' death; when do we want it? Right now."
As of Tuesday morning, smoke was still rising from the streets of Lehrton. Downtown is closed to all traffic and business until further notice from the police department, said Chief of Police Jim Bob Duggin.