As the clock struck midnight to begin Independence Day in Akron, Ohio, the city was in a state of conflict.
In the early afternoon of July 3rd, the Akron Police Department and Mayor convened a press conference to release footage showing the police shooting of 25 year old Jayland Walker.
Walker was killed on the early morning of June 27. Police say that after attempting to pull him over for an unnamed “equipment and possibly traffic violation”, he drove away, prompting a chase.
Authorities claim he fired a single shot from his vehicle during the chase. Minutes later, Walker exited his vehicle unarmed and attempted to run away when he was shot at approximately 90 times by eight officers, resulting in about 60 bullet wounds. He was declared dead shortly after.
A handgun was apparently recovered afterwards from inside the vehicle.
Police both released the body cam footage a week after the shooting and referred the matter to Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation based on local reforms passed in the wake of uprisings after the death of George Floyd.
Despite the appearance of transparency in releasing the videos, the Police Chief during a Q&A afterwards could not explain what the actual infraction that led to all of this was.
The videos begin as the chase is already in progress.
In a press conference held by the family attorney afterwards, they indicated that they too didn’t know precisely what caused the incident to occur.
Following the video’s release, protests began outside the police station. One rally featured NAACP activists and city council-members, who largely used the event to promote voter registration.
Meanwhile, other protesters felt they had to make a stronger message, and began a march on the streets.
Some came armed, and all remained peaceful.
During a lap around the police station, protesters saw and confronted officers wearing heavy equipment in spite of no violence having occurred. As more officers came outside wearing similar gear, organizers kept the group moving.
The march ultimately spanned several miles accumulating hundreds of participants, many riding in a vehicle caravan.
As the sun set, a few family members described Jayland Walker.
In the evening however, things took a turn for the worse. Police deployed tear gas and formed a line in riot gear to push protesters away from the station.
Protesters counted to 63 to signify the number of times Walker had been shot.
As officers attempted to declare an “unlawful assembly” over a megaphone, protesters refused to leave. Officer deployed tear gas, which only escalated the situation. As they fled, some broke the windows of a plow being used as a barricade.
A block away, one activist set fire to a dumpster, which became an epicenter of the protest for the evening.
Police tried to disperse the crowd by rolling up in cruisers with sirens blaring, which was ineffective. Some protesters threw firecrackers.
Ultimately, officers charged into the area around the dumpster, splitting the protest in half. They apparently declared an unlawful assembly on the side opposite mine, and again deployed tear gas. Being stuck away from the group, I drove for miles to flank around back to the crowd.
By the time I arrived, only a few remained.
On July 4, in response to what had happened to the night before, the mayor canceled the city’s fireworks, declared a state of emergency, and instituted a 9pm curfew.
On the evening of July 4, a handful of protesters were back outside the police station. As the clock struck closer to 9, they all departed.
I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen this before in cities going through this, but…
The curfew is being followed. Now 20 minutes to curfew, almost all of the activists who were gathered outside the Akron Police station made the decision to split up and go home. pic.twitter.com/hXKOSP6jdt
— Ford Fischer (@FordFischer) July 5, 2022
The city has had a forceful response to the protesters themselves, but so far, it’s unclear whether their demands for charges to be met. As of now, the eight officers who killed Jayland Walker are on paid administrative leave pending the results of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s review of the shooting.