The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) honors the work of and stands in solidarity with the #JusticeforJayland movement in Akron, Ohio. In recent weeks, the State has waged an assault on protesters demanding accountability in the yearlong legal aftermath of the police murder of Jayland Walker in 2022. As a human rights organization with more than 85 years of experience advocating for justice, NLG is outraged at the clear abuse of protesters and joins local activists in calling for an end to anti-Black police violence and in demanding justice for Jayland Walker and his loved ones.
As noted in a recent statement from the Ohio NLG Chapter, activists have maintained ongoing, peaceful mobilization over the past year to demand accountability for Jayland’s gruesome and unjust murder. In response, police have arrested more than 100 protesters and deployed violent tactics against countless more. Local activists are calling for Akron to drop all charges against protesters; to secure expungement, sealing, or to otherwise clear all records of protest-related arrestees; and to arrange for the return of all fines, fees, and property of those arrested. NLG firmly supports these demands.
In April, Sarah Gelsomino and Elizabeth Bonham—NLG civil rights lawyers from Cleveland, Ohio—filed a temporary protective order in federal court against Akron Police after use of tear gas and pepper spray in residential areas which resulted in injured children and activists. After the order was filed, Akron Police utilized new tactics to target organizers and protesters, including intimidation, surveillance, physical violence once incarcerated, and retaliatory seizure of cars and other property.
Deploying violent, militarized tactics against protesters is wrong in-and-of itself, but Akron police are using aggressive force against community members asking for basic accountability from the very same police force that brutally murdered Jayland. This is not a coincidence—this is yet another example of the inherent structural violence that police enforce. Police have a centuries-long record of persistent anti-Black violence and consistently punish and silence those who speak out against them.
For these exact reasons, NLG is committed to the abolition of policing and prisons. These systems do not keep communities safe; rather, policing targets the very people fighting for a better, safer world. As we work toward actualizing abolition, we defer to the leadership of activists on the ground. NLG encourages meaningful solidarity with Akron organizers who have requested support from their allies in the following action items:
- Donate to the Akron Bail Fund
- Help defend against traffic charges – if interested, contact NLG Ohio Arrest Hotline 614-654-6477
- Donate any of the items on this list to help support activists as well as the unhoused individuals that activist groups work to support
- Follow and reshare information from @ServeThePeopleAkron, @Akron_Bail_Fund, and @TheFreedomBloc on Instagram to help raise awareness of future actions and the needs of the community in Akron, Ohio
- Participate in actions:
- June 9, 2023/5-9 – Justice for Jayland Art Exhibit, Akron Museum Art Museum
- Jun 27-July 4, 2023 – #JusticeforJayland Week of Action
- July 20, 2023 – Jayland Birthday Celebration