The June 27 police murder of Jayland Walker in Akron, Ohio, sparked mass protests last summer, drawing Black Lives Matter activists from around the country.
After a high-speed car chase over a traffic violation, Walker exited his car and began fleeing on foot. Within seven seconds, eight police fired 94 bullets at him, hitting the 25-year-old Black man 46 times; then the cops handcuffed Walker. City officials have refused to release the names of the police who killed Walker, but activists were able to determine their identities. All eight remain on the force.
Protests erupted again after Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced April 17 that an Ohio grand jury, convened to investigate Walker’s killing, would not charge any of the cops involved.
At a press conference held the same day, Rev. Ray Green of The Freedom BLOC stated: “No justice, no peace. Period. There will be no justice in Akron, no peace in Akron; there will be no peace in Summit County; there will be no peace in the state of Ohio; there will be no peace in America, until Blacks are able to walk down the street without being gunned down.”
Other speakers included Walker family attorney Bobby DiCello, Akron NAACP President Judi Hill, Akron Urban League President Teresa LeGrair, Akron Congressional Rep. Amelia Sykes and Pastor Robert DeJournett of St. Ashworth Temple Church of God in Christ. DeJournett is the Walker family’s pastor.
Lawsuit wins halt to tear gas, pepper spray against activists
Regular marches began before April 17 and are still taking place. Walker family supporters with their signs were seen behind television announcers at the April 18 home basketball game of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Akron is best known around the country as the hometown of superstar and former Cavalier Lebron James.
Government buildings were closed and boarded up in advance of Yost’s announcement. Akron police and Summit County sheriffs have been out in full force to repress activists.
Without provocation cops fired tear gas and pepper spray at peaceful demonstrators and their children on April 19. At least six people were then arrested and moved from Akron to the Stark County Jail, where they were held for days. Other protesters were given tickets by Akron police as they were leaving.
The Akron Bail Fund sued, seeking a restraining order blocking the use of tear gas and pepper spray against protesters. In court April 21, Akron Deputy Law Director John Christoper Reece claimed demonstrators created a danger by blocking traffic. Assistant Law Director Brian Bremer stated there were bottles thrown at the police before they gassed the crowd, but Judge James Grimes Jr. noted that he offered no evidence of those claims.
In a settlement reached the same day, both parties agreed that “peaceful” demonstrators would not be sprayed in the future. But what’s to stop the cops from fabricating claims of “violence” again?
In the meantime an outraged community continues to demand justice for Jayland Walker.