OBERLIN, Ohio — Almost five years after Oberlin College students accused Gibson’s Bakery of discrimination and racial profiling, newly released evidence gives a glimpse into social media posts made by Allyn D. Gibson, the grandson of David Gibson, the owner of Gibson’s Bakery.
Racial protests erupted in November 2016 after police arrested three black students for their roles in an accused shoplifting incident at the bakery.
At the time, conflicting reports swept through the community over what exactly happened.
Oberlin College, on a website dedicated to the case, said that one of the students tried to purchase alcohol at the bakery with a fake ID and was accused of shoplifting and chased down by Allyn D. Gibson.
Eventually, Oberlin College details on the website how those students pled guilty to shoplifting as part of a plea deal, but not before hundreds of students and part of the community dealt the bakery a significant blow in business by boycotting it and accusing it of racial profiling.
Those students charged with a crime were also required to make a statement that Allyn D. Gibson, who was involved in the scuffle and is white, was not racially motivated in his actions chasing and confronting the students.
In 2017, the bakery sued Oberlin College and its Dean of Students at the time, Meredith Raimondo, for libel. The lawsuit argued that the school aided its students in their protest, while flyers were handed out accusing the business of discrimination and profiling.
The case garnered national attention over the question: is an institution such as a college responsible for the speech of its students?
In 2019, a judge ruled the school must pay the business a total of $44 million in damages. Later on, the college detailed how a judge reduced that number to $31.6 million.
Newly released social media posts shed new light on student claims
After arguing before the court for nearly two years, News 5 won its attempt to unseal evidence in this case.
The evidence in question, known as “Exhibit G,” contained Facebook posts made by Allyn D. Gibson, the grandson of the owner of the bakery, and the individual who took part directly in the 2016 incident.
Until now, those posts were sealed by a judge, meaning neither the press nor members of the public had access.
The exhibit, submitted by Oberlin College, shows posts from 2012 to 2017 where Allyn D. Gibson shared to others how he and his family’s store were perceived as being racist.
The posts also go a step further.
In April of 2016, Allyn D. Gibson posted on one friend’s wall, “not my fault most black ppl around my area suck.”
Less than four months before the 2016 incident, Allyn D. Gibson posted his frustration over being called racist saying, “if these lazy ***** want to start working then they could earn their own money. That’s what my family does for money… work.”
His post, made on a friend’s Facebook wall, goes on to say, “People spit at me and call me racist at least a few times a month. 100 % of those people deserve to die. **** them all to hell.”
Katie Townsend serves as the legal director of Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which represented News 5 in court proceedings.
“Our one goal was to maximize transparency and make sure the public had a full picture of what transpired here,” Townsend explains. “I think it provides additional context and understanding about the allegations made on both sides about the incidents that took place and the protests that are the reason this lawsuit was filed.”
The school’s current president, Carmen Twillie Ambar, who was not around in 2016 during the incident, released the following statement about the newly released evidence:
The issues raised by this case have been challenging, not only for the parties involved, but for the entire Oberlin community. While this matter is under appeal, we cannot comment on the specifics of the litigation.For 187 years, Oberlin College has been dedicated to educating and preparing our students for a complex world. Our institution remains committed to addressing racial tensions, wherever they reside. That is why we created the Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity, and why this institution is a leader in the national conversation about how liberal arts colleges can support racial equity on their campuses.
Oberlin College's appeal is still ongoing.
News 5 made several attempts to talk with the owners of Gibson’s Bakery ans its attorneys. They have not replied with any comment on this development as of Thursday evening.