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Next Steps: Walker Protestors Ready For Police Reforms

By Lynn Lee

Reporter News Team

(Akron, OH) -- The aftermath of a grand jury decision not to file criminal charges against eight police officers involved in the deadly shooting of Jayland Walker, let the air out of a balloon. So many are feeling emotionally deflated.Processor are not without options: politics and civil rights education.

"The law allows officers to use deadly force to defend themselves or others against a deadly threat," Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in announcing the decision. "

The decision has left so many emotions running high, and the willingness to accept the outcome is just incompatible, they just won’t mix. Those in the Black Community are hurt and angry about a decision that is viewed unjust.

The citizens of Akron have felt uneasy about the treatment from law enforcement, which seems to have the two sides clashing much too often.

Not too long ago, citizens took their voices to the ballot box voting to create a Citizen’s Police Oversight Board to review local policing policies and procedures of the City of Akron Department of Public Safety.

Now with the “No Bill” decision from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, there are those who beg to question where do we go from here?

“This question seems to come up after so many tragedies across the country and we haven’t been able to answer it yet,” said concerned citizen Renee Green.

“Personally, I don’t think we should go anywhere from here – I don’t think we should move from this spot until the issue is resolved that is amenable to the public or citizens.”

The former Akron City Ward 4 Councilwoman said, “If people want to continue to march to keep the attention in the public's eye, that’s fine, but the legalese need to resolve this with the public behind them.”

” We’ve gotten the attention from a Cleveland attorney because of a water bottle thrown at a peace rally (last Wednesday night) and the police are so antagonized and ready to strike (spraying tear gas and throwing smoke bombs at non-violent young and old protestors) tells me that a lesson for them has not been learned because officers got away again.”

Mistrust and alienation between Black men and the police have become so

entrenched. When it comes to the relationship between police and citizens, particularly young Black men, the collective experience of Black men is sobering.

Numerous studies have shown that Black men are disproportionately targeted, stopped, frisked, and searched through the practice of racial profiling.

Black men end up in prison more often, receive longer sentences than white men, and are more likely to be killed during police encounters than white men – 21 times more likely.

“It’s our job to prepare them for what may lay ahead, and we work hard with young Black men to basically show them that their actions when encountered by police may very well play a role in the outcome of their encounter,” said Michael Irby- President of 100 Black Men of Greater Akron.

His answer, to where we go from here, is to be vocal – “speak up and speak out. “We show them that it’s OK to protest and be vocal but do it in a way that is respectful and peaceful. We also make sure they know what they are protesting about, that you are not out there just to be vocal. Have in mind what changes you seek and why you are seeking them.”

According to Irby, violence is unnecessary. “You can get your word across without destroying or being violent.”

On behalf of the Black Elected Officials of Summit County (BEOSC), member Veronica Sims recognizes the hurt of the Walker family at the decision of the grand jury not to charge the eight officers- that they feel killed their son.

“We know this is another incomparable, agonizing painful moment that you must endure, and we request that the city and police department recognize the hurt of the Walker family and community by not standing in the way of nonviolent protests which is an afforded right guaranteed by the First Amendment.

We ask the community to continue in nonviolent protests and we urge outside groups and those with malicious intentions to steer clear of our city, we don’t need any more hurt or pain in our city.

“The BEOSC stands ready and willing to collaborate with the city, Police department and any other organization to bring resolve and forward progress to Akron in the days, weeks, and months ahead.”

Reprinted from The Reporter - April 29, 2023 edition.

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