© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Rocked by Walker grand jury decision, protesters march across Downtown Akron calling for change

Freedom Bloc organizer Chyna Lopp (center) shouts into a megaphone outside  First Congregational Church of Akron prior to a march on Tuesday, April 18, 2023.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Freedom Bloc organizer Chyna Lopp (center) shouts into a megaphone outside First Congregational Church of Akron prior to a march on Tuesday, April 18, 2023.

The Akron community is reeling from a grand jury’s decision Monday not to indict the officerswho fatally shot Jayland Walker.

More than 100 people marched through downtown Akron Tuesday afternoon, doubling down on the calls for police reform and social justice that were ignited by Walker's death last summer.

Some of the protesters met at First Congregational Church on East Market Street ahead of the march and heard from speakers, including Rev. Ray Greene Jr. of Freedom BLOC, Imokhai Okolo, a local lawyer who was blocked from the city’s police oversight board due to comments he made on social media about police, and the Walker family’s attorney Bobby DiCello.

Many of the speakers expressed outrage that the eight officers fired 94 shots and still faced no criminal charges. Greene called for more people to get involved in calling for change.

“When you see a child gets shot at 100 times as that being your brother, your son, your cousin, you're supposed to come out your house and say something is wrong,” Greene said.

“Almost 100 shots at any human being is not policing that we want, or will tolerate, in our community,” said Tamika Mallory, a national activist and co-founder of the Women’s March.

Walker’s mother, Pamela, and sister, Jada also attended the church gathering.

The people who showed up to march are helping the Walkers deal with the pain they are experiencing in the aftermath of the decision, DiCello said.

“You are helping this family. You are helping them find meaning in their day,” he said.

He told people to turn their anger and emotion over the decision into action.

“We have lost but one small battle,” DiCello added. “We are going to change things in this city.”

Okolo, who is 27, called on young people to get involved in their community.

“It's time for us to pick up our inheritance and to carry this fight forward. Us young people, we have the energy, we have the ideas and the passion to carry this forward,” he said.

After the speeches, the crowd marched down East Market Street, stopping at the federal courthouse downtown. They stood on the steps and heard additional speeches.

Paige White, another attorney on DiCello’s team, called out Akron police for asking for peace in the wake of the grand jury’s decision.

“Where was your peace towards Jayland? Where is your nonviolence? You cannot unleash terror on people and tell them to calm down,” White said.

White and other speakers called for a closer look into the Akron Police Department’s culture and practices.

Greene said he’s made numerous requests to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look into the department. On Monday, Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes asked the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation as well.

White added that the legal team plans to file a civil lawsuit against the city in June.

The group then marched back to First Congregational Church, where they continued to connect with one another and work toward healing.

Several other demonstrations are planned for Tuesday evening, including a prayer vigil in the city’s “demonstration zone” on South High Street. Kemp Boyd, director of Love Akron and chair of the city’s civilian police oversight board, is leading the vigil.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.