On June 27th, a 25-year-old Black man named Jayland Walker was shot more than 40 times by police in Akron, Ohio, after refusing to stop for them, initiating a dangerous car chase, and allegedly firing at officers from his vehicle. Walker’s death led to violent protests throughout the Ohio city, and “bounties” were even put on the involved police officers’ heads.

Now, as the city awaits a grand jury’s decision on the fate of the eight involved police officers, local businesses have boarded up their windows in anticipation of violent rioting.

Law enforcement has also created a “demonstration zone” outside the courthouse in order to “allow for residents to safely demonstrate, protest and exercise their first amendment rights to freedom of speech, assembly

Stephanie Marsh, a spokesperson for Akron, reported on the city’s preparations for the grand jury results.

“The city of Akron has been preparing for the grand jury results since last summer,” said Marsh. “The most important part of our preparation has been building relationships with our community and establishing better lines of communication.”

Bobby DiCello, the attorney for Walker’s family, criticized the officials who fear destructive protesting over the jury ruling. He argued that the city of Akron “doesn’t trust a significant portion of its citizens.”

“Today, the family of Jayland Walker urges you to be mindful of how important it is that in America, everyone has equal access to justice and a fair process,” said DiCello. “They are not advocating for anything more than that.”

“Unfortunately, this process is already stacked against them, but they will continue to fight for the justice that they and Jayland deserve,” DiCello added.

DiCello may criticize the community of Akron for anticipating violent rioting, however, they have significant reason to prepare for the worst given the city’s track record.

In 2020, rioters took to the streets following the death of George Floyd. Local businesses were ransacked, windows were smashed, and the downtown area was vandalized by the rioters.

In order to disperse the destructive crowds, police had to use tear gas.

Following Walker’s death in 2022, rioters again took to the streets of Akron, again causing destruction downtown, resulting in 101 windows and doors being broken.

Now, local businesses fear a repeat of these destructive protests that hurt the community.

One local business owner, Chris Sedlock, told Akron Beacon Journal that his business suffered damage during last year’s protests, costing him money as well as taxpayers. He also expressed his concern for local business owners who are bracing for another potential blow to their companies.

Revealing the major toll the riots of the past few years have taken on his business, Sedlock said, “In the course of the past three years, I’ve invested almost $1 million in the first floor here, so obviously, I’ve invested a lot of money in the city that I’m still waiting to get paid back.”

“The long-term effects of these rioters, it’s pretty damaging to a local business owner,” he added. “Last year, after the riots were done, the windows were boarded for three months, but I don’t feel like the people [felt like it was safe again] until just recently.”

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