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Akron protests, marches continue Saturday over Jayland Walker's death

Jayland Walker protest march, July 9, 2022
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Protesters march east on University Street in downtown Akron Saturday afternoon to demand justice for Jayland Walker, who was shot and killed by Akron Police on June 27.

More than 100 demonstrators marched through downtown Akron Saturday to protest the police killing of 25-year-old Jayland Walker - despite a call from Akron officials to pause protests for 48 hours after two residents, including a 4-year-old girl, were killed in a shooting Friday.

The shooting happened at a celebratory gathering near the 700 block of Princeton St. and was unrelated to Walker protests, police said.

Christin Li, who helped organize the Saturday protest, said that gave them even more reason to call for police reform.

“We’re out here because APD is not taking care of people’s lives. That’s yet another example of them not taking care of peoples’ lives, not watching out for us,” Li said.

Li is a member of the Cleveland branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the group that organized Saturday’s protest.

Also in attendance were family members of victims of other police shootings – including Samaria Rice, Tamir Rice’s mother, and Jacob Blake Sr., father of Jacob Blake, who was injured by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year.

Jacob Blake_Akron_protest
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Jacob Blake Sr., father of Jacob Blake, who was shot and injured by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, speaks at Saturday's protest in downtown Akron.

Blake Sr. was hospitalized and arrested after a protest in Akron earlier this week. Akron Police seriously injured him during the arrest, he said.

“They beat me into a seizure,” he said. “When I woke up in the hospital, I woke up more determined than ever.”

Blake was charged with rioting and failure to disperse. At the Saturday event, he called for people to continue showing up to demonstrations and calling for justice.

“If we do not stand up now, then we will not stand up ever,” he said. “Take my emotion and what’s inside of me and take it with you, Akron. I’m calling on you all to represent for you all.”

Samaria Rice, whose 12-year-old son Tamir was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer in 2014, said she came to the protest to show support for the Walker family.

“I’m very heartbroken and torn over what I’ve seen happen to Jayland Walker,” she said.

Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Samaria Rice, Tamir Rice's mom, speaks at Saturday's protest over the police killing of Jayland Walker.

Rice reached out to the Walker family to offer her support, she said. She encouraged protesters to put pressure on public officials.

Protesters held signs and chanted phrases like “Black lives matter” and “Whose streets? Our streets.” After several speakers called for police reform and defunding the police altogether, the crowd marched east on University Street, stopping several times to lead chants and demand justice for Walker.

At one point, marchers passed a SWAT vehicle. The vehicle appeared on and running, but no law enforcement officers seemed to be there.

Snow plows and other large city vehicles blocked traffic in much of the downtown area. A curfew remains in effect overnight starting at 10 p.m.

Meanwhile, the mayor and police chief released a joint statement responding to complaints from demonstrators that Akron Police have used aggressive tactics at peaceful protests. Chief Steve Mylett said officers have received death threats.

“We have received death threats with officers’ information being posted. We’ve gotten news from the FBI about violent extremists coming to our city and posing as resident demonstrators in order to perpetuate violence,” Mylett said in the written statement. “These are not excuses, but the reality of what our Akron Police officers and our community are currently facing.”

Horrigan added that he and Mylett have had conversations about de-escalating the tension between protesters and police.

“As we call for peace, we understand that call applies to all of us. I’m hopeful that we can all come to the table and begin to have the necessary conversations to create forward progress for our city,” Horrigan said in the statement.

Beginning Monday, Horrigan and Mylett will hold daily press briefings.

The legal team representing the Walker family has also released a statement reiterating their call for peace – both from protesters and police.

“While we are all appalled at what has transpired and are requesting an apology from the police department and the City of Akron and will be pursuing other transformative goals, violence in the streets will accomplish nothing and will only bring more anguish to our community," officials said in a statement Saturday. "We are asking all residents to engage only in non-violent demonstration."

Akron City Council has called for a day of mourning on Wednesday, July 13 – when Walker’s funeral is planned, according to a statement released by council.

In addition to the two people killed Friday night, a 26-year-old woman was recently killed in her Summit Lake residence by what police said was celebratory gunfire on July 4.

“Our city is grieving, and the grief is being further complicated with each loss of life,” Council President Margo Sommerville said in the statement.

No suspects have been identified in either incident.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron and Canton for Ideastream Public Media.