AKRON, Ohio — Akron police have released more information about a protest for Jayland Walker Wednesday night that saw individuals come from other states across the country to rally against police brutality and ended with arrests.
According to the police department, dozens of protesters were gathered in front of the Harold Stubbs Justice center around 8:30 p.m. when some of the individuals involved blocked traffic to a nearby street.
Police said they "provided information and direction to demonstrators on where they could safely and legally protest," but protesters continued to block the street.
"Officers gave multiple orders to disperse, and warnings were issued that failure to comply would result in arrests. After members in the group failed to comply with the orders and continued to block the intersection, officers moved in and placed two men under arrest," police said.
One of those individuals is Jacob Blake Sr., the father of Jacob Blake, a man who was shot by a Kenosha Police Officer seven times and left partially paralyzed. The shooting led to massive protests and unrest across Wisconsin and the nation. That Kenosha officer, Rusten Sheskey, was not criminally charged in the shooting. Jacob Blake Sr. has been a vocal participant in police-related protests since then.
Twitter video of the protest shows the moment police officers arrested Blake Sr. "He's handicapped, that's Jacob Blake Sr. You know who that is, right?" a witness said in the video. The video also shows a protester being punched repeatedly by an Akron police officer while being held by several other officers.
You can watch the video in the player below:
Blake Sr. is currently in the hospital, according to Akron Municipal Court. His condition and reason for being in the hospital have not been released.
Justin Blake said his brother, Jacob Blake Sr., traveled to Akron to peacefully protest and show support for the Walker family.
Justin has been told his brother got out of a van to check on the activist who was being punched by police who officers turned their attention to Walker Sr.
"Nobody understood why there were trying to arrest him. He was explaining he wasn't in the street," Justin Blake said. "At the end of the day, the police officers arrested my brother in such a brutal form that he had to go directly to the hospital."
Another male protester, a 37-year-old from North Carolina, was transported to the Summit County Jail following the arrest. Blake Sr. and the other man are both charged with the following:
- Riot, a first-degree misdemeanor
- Resisting arrest, a first-degree misdemeanor
- Failure to disperse, a minor misdemeanor
- Disorderly conduct, a minor misdemeanor
In total, seven people were arrested at the protest. Among those was Bianca Austin, who is the aunt of Breonna Taylor.
Taylor, who was employed as an EMT, was inside her home in Louisville, Kentucky when police conducted a “no-knock raid” on her home. Thinking the police officers were intruders, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot at the police. Louisville Metro Police officers returned fire, striking and killing Taylor.
According to police, officers used chemical agents to disperse the crowd, which gathered at Cleveland Clinic Akron General Medical Center and blocked traffic again.
"Subjects in the group reportedly blocked Wabash Avenue making it difficult to access the entrance to the emergency room which led to a lockdown of the hospital. City EMS services were temporarily redirected. Once the parking lot and street were cleared, normal service was restored," police said.
The department said that while they support the right to protest peacefully, "acts of violence and property damage are illegal and will not be permitted."
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan issued the following statement Thursday:
“Akron residents have valid frustrations and anger right now and I hear that. What I want the community to know is that I have been committed to transparency, community dialogue and engagement. I remain willing to come to the table and have the hard, important conversations we need to have. I understand that some organizers won’t be willing or able to talk just yet and I respect that, but I want to be clear that when they are ready to talk, I will be here. Utilizing an experienced, third party, independent entity to mediate these difficult conversations ensures that the dialogue will remain productive. In the meantime, we all have a part to play in deescalating violence in our city and condemning the unlawful acts of those who intentionally and violently disrupt those who wish to peacefully express their views. I’m calling on everyone to urge peace in our city.”
Community organizers respond
On Thursday morning, the Freedom BLOC, including Rev. Ray Green Jr., along with Brad Stephens from Serve the People - Akron and Ben Gifford with Akron DSA spoke at the news conference to release a statement about enacting change in the city.
"We are not here to have a conversation when we are under militarized occupation, while there are guns pointed at us, with tear gas and pepper spray choking us," organizers stated in a news release. "We are here to see accountability. Residents of Akron and surrounding communities are getting hurt and dying. The local police have waged war on peaceful protesters and innocent neighbors. It is the police who have escalated at every step. Disarm and demilitarize all local police entities and forces."
You can watch the news conference in the player below:
Jayland Walker's death
On the night of June 27, Jayland was shot multiple times by Akron police after a traffic stop turned into a pursuit and a foot chase that ended in a parking lot near Firestone Park.
During a press conference with Akron police where the department released body camera footage of the moments leading up to Walker's death, authorities showed reporters a narrated video of specific moments during the pursuit and shooting, including, near the start of the pursuit, what looks like a muzzle flash captured on an ODOT camera that police say occurred while what sounds like a gunshot is captured on body-cam.
When Jayland's vehicle slowed down he jumped out of the passenger side door wearing a ski mask and fled from police. It was during this foot chase that Walker's movements "caused the officers to perceive he posed a deadly threat to them," and they opened fire in response, striking him.
The entire incident lasted just minutes.
Biden remarks on Jayland Walker's shooting
During a trip to Cleveland on Wednesday to discuss his economic agenda, prior to the protests in the Akron later in the evening, President Joe Biden addressed the Akron Police shooting of 25-year-old Jayland Walker early in his speech, saying the Justice Department and FBI are monitoring the case, and said if the evidence reveals any violations of federal law, the Justice Department "will take the appropriate action."
"I want to make one serious comment about the shooting and death of Jaylen Walker. The Justice Department of Civil Rights Division of the FBI field office in Akron, Ohio, and the local US Attorney's Office are closely monitoring and reviewing what happened," Biden said. "The FBI continues to coordinate with state and local partners to provide resources and specialized skill. If the evidence reveals potential violations of federal criminal statutes, the Justice Department will take the appropriate action. And I just want you to know what is going to happen."
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