AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – Streets in the heart of downtown Akron were closed Friday night as the city’s mayor released a message, calling for peace.
Huge city plow trucks and concrete barriers shut off the public from Akron City Hall and the Justice Center.
Hundreds of people gathered Friday evening for what organizers called a peace rally for 25-year-old Jayland Walker. The rally was held on East Wilbeth Road, just steps away from where Walker was shot multiple times and killed by Akron police on June 27.
“I just feel like it’s my duty to come and support other families, support the community and, you know, just be a voice of reason,” said Bianca Austin.
Austin is one of several high-profile activists who attended the rally. Her niece, Breonna Taylor, was shot and killed in Louisville, Kentucky during a botched police raid.
“Tragedies like these continue to happen, that’s why it’s our duty to continue to support these families, travel and stand in solidarity and demand accountability for Jayland Walker and his family,” Austin said.
Also in attendance was Jacob Blake, Sr., whose son was shot and seriously wounded in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“My son got shot seven times in his back by the police, so we stand with families all over the country. That’s what brought me here, knowing that this family needed us to stand up for them,” said Blake.
Organizers say the rally was to honor Jayland’s life, demand accountability for his death and bring attention to excessive force and police brutality issues.
“They knocked me out, so I had a seizure,” said Blake, who had just been released from the hospital.
“His lip was four times the size of this now,” Blake explained, referring to fellow protester Michael Harris.
Austin and Blake were among seven people arrested downtown Wednesday night. The group included 37-year-old Michael Harris who appeared in court Friday morning. He is also the man seen being punched repeatedly by an Akron police officer in a viral video.
A FOX 8 viewer provided a new angle that shows the events leading up to the punching and the moment officers sprayed an irritant to disperse the crowd.
“We’ve got to stay out here and fight for Black lives. No, we’re not OK, not when we’re out here exercising our First Amendment rights and I get attacked and hit by officers,” said Harris.
Friday afternoon, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan released a video statement to the public.
“This has been a very difficult week for our city, to say the least, and I know we will be facing more challenges in the weeks ahead. This entire community is feeling the weight of Jayland Walker’s death. I am continuing to call for peace right here in our city,” said Horrigan.
“We’re not going anywhere and we’re going to make sure that they understand that because what was done to Jayland Walker, I want the community to know, don’t wait until it happens to you. Get out here and support,” said Austin.
In his statement, Horrigan re-iterated that he fully supports peaceful demonstrations, but condemns violence or law-breaking.
The 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew will remain in effect until further notice.