Police break up peaceful Jayland Walker protest in West Akron with tear gas, pepper spray
A peaceful protest in Akron, Ohio, Wednesday night was broken up by police using tear gas and pepper spray. The protesters were calling for justice after a grand jury decided not to indict the eight Akron police officers involved in the shooting death of a young Black man last summer.
"Don't arrest me, arrest the police! Arrest the police! Charge the police! Indict the police! Convict the police!," a group of about 50 protesters led by Frank Ragsdale chanted before setting off on their march.
The group grew to around 150 protesters marching through residential Akron calling for justice for Jayland Walker and urging onlookers to join them.
"What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now," the group chanted. "If Jayland don't get it? Shut it down."
Walker was shot and killed by Akron police last summer, and a grand jury this week decided not to indict the officers involved in his death.
Protester Bruce Butcher wasn’t surprised by the decision.
“I was extremely disappointed, but for the grand jury in the state of Ohio in Summit County, it was business as usual," Butcher said. "It was just another day at the office.”
Protesters marched north on West Hawkins and east on Copley in West Akron, chanting Walker's name and demanding justice. There was no police presence. Drivers of passing cars and even drivers of cars stopped by the protest honked their horns in support. What started as a few cars in the caravan soon grew to around 40.
Protester Tasha Da Gawdess urged others to join her in an economic protest of Summit County.
"If we don't spend money, that shuts down this whole system. The only thing they are about is finances," Da Gawdess said. "They don't care nothing about us being here in the streets. They don't care nothing about us riding down, blocking traffic."
Protest groups are considering an economic boycott, Butcher said.
In the protest's second hour when participants stopped to occupy the intersection of Copley and East Avenue, officers from the Akron Police Department and Summit County Sheriff’s Office arrived.
As children were ushered to safety, officers pepper sprayed several peaceful protesters. In response, protesters threw a few plastic water bottles at the police. Officers responded by tear gassing and pepper spraying protesters and media observing from the sidewalk.
Pepper spray deployed at the protest. @ideastream pic.twitter.com/k4jGxisnKx— Ygal Kaufman (@gentleentry) April 19, 2023
The city claims the police acted in response to plastic water bottles being thrown at officers, but Ideastream Public Media footage shows no bottles were thrown until after the pepper spray was used.
Akron Police have not yet responded to inquiries about whether any protesters were arrested.