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It started with an alleged traffic stop. Then it turned into a police chase. Then eight Akron police officers gunned down 25-year-old Jayland Walker with more than 60 gunshot wounds.
Jayland’s killing on June 27, while horrific and gruesome, is unfortunately not the first of its kind. Police chases in Akron have caused more than 45 deaths since 2000, with Jayland being the latest victim of this reckless police practice. Furthermore, body camera footage revealed Jayland was unarmed when he was shot. The Akron Police Department needs serious reform.
The Freedom BLOC and other grassroots community organizations are demanding the city of Akron legislate the abolition of police chases and the elimination of traffic stops for all traffic violations. They cause more harm than good, especially considering police officers kill Black people at more than twice the rate of their white counterparts. Jayland would still be alive if we had these laws in place.
We’re also demanding the city disarm any police or security forces deployed to protests and prohibit the usage of tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets in its city code. In the aftermath of Jayland’s killing, the Akron Police Department has used these tactics to inflict unnecessary aggression on peaceful protesters exercising their constitutional rights.
The police showed up at peaceful rallies and marches with guns, tactical gear, riot shields, and tanks. They sprayed us with tear gas. They beat peaceful protesters and arrested them, with some protesters needing medical attention while in jail but not receiving it. They were the ones escalating at every step of the way.
On July 8, Akron police officers followed peaceful protesters making their way to The Freedom BLOC’s office, a safe zone located outside the city limits where curfew was imposed. The officers tried to come onto private property without a warrant and disrupt Akron residents’ right to gather peacefully.
Rather than disrespect and violate safe zones, the city of Akron and Akron Police Department should support these sanctuaries. When peaceful protests erupted after Breonna Taylor’s killing by police in Louisville, a local church was named a safe zone from militant cops during curfew. Community members gathered at this safe zone to drop off water and bail bond donations. If police were actually interested in protecting its residents, they would encourage the establishment of safe zones to protect people when there is violence in the city.
We saw what happened in Louisville with Breonna Taylor. We saw what happened in Minneapolis with George Floyd. We’re seeing it happen now in Akron with Jayland Walker. How many more lives do we have to lose at the hands of police officers before we get police reform?
Enough is enough.
We can’t tolerate a culture of racism and white supremacy in our police departments any longer. We need meaningful and radical police reform or else Black and brown people will continue to be killed by police officers with zero accountability or consequences across America.
We deserve to feel safe in our communities. We deserve to live with dignity and without fear. We deserve to be heard by our leadership and protected by those who are supposed to serve us. And while we deserve justice, more importantly, we deserve a life free of injustices.