Next Steps: Walker Protestors Ready For Police Reforms*

The Jayland Walker family, along with family attroner and Judi Hill, Akron NAACP president

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. Protestors 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.

Protesters march down Copley Road after grand jury decision not to charge the eight police officers

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

“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

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

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.*