Filed under: Action, Featured, Midwest, Police, Repression, The State
This report was written and compiled between It’s Going Down editors and folks directly on the ground.
Over the last several days, police and local officials in Akron, Ohio, have carried out a counter-insurgency campaign of wide-scale repression against largely Black demonstrators, following the brutal police murder of Jayland Walker, 25, who was shot over 60 times after fleeing from police during a traffic stop. After being shot, police then handcuffed Walker before attempting to administer aid and transporting him to a hospital, where he was then pronounced dead on arrival.
Since protests kicked off following the release of police footage of the shooting, the city and its police have responded with tear-gas attacks, instituting a curfew, and savagely beating, gassing and arresting protesters outside of the local jail, police department HQ, and in the Downtown. Local officials, aided by mainstream media outlets parroting police talking points, have attempted to center the focus on the “violence” of several broken windows on Sunday night as justification for the widespread crackdown and ongoing attacks on journalists and protesters with batons and chemical weapons.
The brutal crackdown comes a little over two years since the George Floyd uprising, as anger against heavily militarized, unaccountable, and deadly police has only grown in the aftermath of the Uvalde massacre. Democrats, such as Akron’s mayor, Dan Horrigan, are keen to violently suppress these protests before they grow, spread, and strike a chord with the rest of the country.
Everyone knew pretty intuitively Sunday was going to be a hard day. This was the day the body worn camera footage of Jayland Walker’s murder was released by the city, the cops and local government were fucking terrified and there was this general tension in the air. People had once again gathered in front of the injustice center, and things remained peaceful, but loud. Sunday had the largest gathering of people out of all of the previous events folks had seen. This allowed for a little bit of co-optation by liberal elements.
Large numbers of the crowd began to march up High St. and by the time they had been marching for a full hour, people back at the injustice center were starting to waver in energy. These marches to nowhere are a deliberate attempt to drain your protest movement of its energy. They drain the marchers, and they weaken the protestors at the main site. Eventually, the marchers returned and were led away a second time shortly after. This is when the police decided to come out with gas masks and tear gas launchers.
Anger grows on the streets of #Akron, #Ohio as riot police shoot off tear-gas and declare an unlawful assembly as crowds gather to protest the police murder of #JaylandWalker. #JusticeforJayland pic.twitter.com/EKxEDm4fLh
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) July 4, 2022
Protestors scrambled to let the marchers know that the police had come out of their den, as numbers were desperately needed up the road. As people began repopulating the streets in front of the injustice center, the pigs started firing tear gas, and slowly marching into the road. This began a mad scramble through the streets; medics washing out people’s eyes with saline and protestors seeking safe places to regroup. Meanwhile, a line of riot cops fired their launchers into the air, so the canisters would arc, putting the gas in striking range of the crowd. Were some windows smashed? Not until after the cops began their show of force. Were some dumpster fires lit? Sure, but if you can show us one person that got hurt by that dumpster fire we’ll give you a million dollars.
Noise Demonstration Attacked by Tear-Gas Outside of Jail
There was a heavy police presence at Akron mayor’s home when came to deliver our demands. Two of our activists were arrested while demanding justice!!#justiceforjaylandwalker #JusticeForJaylandWalker #SayHisName #blacklivesmatter pic.twitter.com/7RcZnMV0vs
— Freedom BLOC (@thefreedomBLOC) July 4, 2022
49 people were arrested by the police on Sunday night; kettled off into unmarked vans, including medics, and including the family of Jayland Walker who have since been released, as of Wednesday. Many report that those arrested were not allowed to make phone calls or receive medical attention and faced brutal conditions. On July 4th, Mayor Dan Horrigan (D) decided then to institute a 9pm to 6am curfew in downtown Akron, even cancelling a July 4th fireworks display. Despite the clamp-down, protests continued throughout the day Monday; including a march and protest on Horrigan’s home, but died off before the curfew was to go into effect.
Reports from #Akron that police have tear-gassed those rallying outside the jail, demanding the release of the “approximately 50 adults” who have been arrested since the start of the #JaylandWalker protests. On Monday, police instilled a curfew + tear-gassed street protests. https://t.co/q8Tr6loSpu
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) July 6, 2022
By Tuesday, a bail fund was set up: $AkronBailFund on CashApp, so if you are interested in helping release protestors, please donate. A noise demonstration was also organized outside of the local jail in solidarity with those arrested over the previous two nights. In response, Akron police mobilized in riot gear and MRAPs once more, attacking protesters with tear-gas and breaking up the protest, despite it taking place outside of the official “curfew” zone.
According to The Enquirer:
The Summit County sheriff’s SWAT team used tear gas late Tuesday night to disperse protesters outside the county jail, where people arrested during demonstrations over the Fourth of July weekend were being held.
“We were having a peaceful protest, the next thing I know, they were throwing tear gas at us,” James Crawl, a former wrestling teammate of Walker at Buchtel high school, told the Beacon Journal.
The sheriff’s department said as many as 75 people were protesting and banging on doors at one point outside the jail. The decision to use tear gas was made because protesters were disrupting jail operations, a spokesman said.
An interview with one of the peaceful protesters, who was arrested by Akron police. He talks about the treatment that protesters are getting from Akron police when arrested!
— Freedom BLOC (@thefreedomBLOC) July 6, 2022
In a further effort to destabilize protesters, police began to drop off people whose bail had been paid in yet another unmarked van, at random sites around Akron; some inside of the curfew zone, in order to ensue general chaos among those attempting to do jail support. Again, from The Enquirer:
Sierra Mason, a 24-year-old organizer from Canton, said she followed a sheriff’s cruiser to a Sheetz gas station, where they dropped off bailed-out protesters. She helped take one of the men home. “Instead of releasing these people out front where they would be supported by community, they’re deciding to do this,” she said. “It’s intentional. Instead of being here, they got me driving all over town.”
Jennifer Rogers, a 40-year-old Akron resident, was standing in the parking lot worrying about her 18-year-old son with autism early in the evening. She said she had not been able to get him his medication since his Sunday arrest and had no contact with him. “My son was in there if they haven’t already dropped him off in the middle of nowhere,” she said. “I’m real angry.” She later found him at a Dairy Queen on the West Side, an organizer told the Beacon Journal.
Curfew Lifted, Police Declare Unlawful Assembly, Make Brutal Arrests
On Wednesday, people continued to mobilize in support of those that had been arrested. Despite the curfew being lifted over Downtown, as night fell, law enforcement again brutally attacked protesters rallying outside of the local police HQ, proclaiming it an “unlawful assembly,” shooting chemical agents at protesters on the sidewalk, and beating protesters before arresting them.
— Forest City Anarchists (@FCAnarchists) July 4, 2022
According to posts and videos on social media, both Bianca Austin, the aunt of Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake, Sr, the father of Jacob Blake, who was shot and paralyzed by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, were arrested by Akron police late Wednesday night, with Blake being reportedly hospitalized.
— jolly_good_ginger (@jollygoodginger) July 7, 2022
The actions by the Akron police show that the institution of policing has not changed since its inception during slavery as a force designed to capture escaped slaves and break strikes. Far from being a force of protection within the population against violence, the police exist to uphold the power and privilege of an elite class and the settler-colonial racial order of the American project, and are willing to use massive amounts of violence against the broader population to ensure that this ‘order’ stays protected.