A protest against racism, and a $31.5 million defamation award


The initial confusion, recorded on a police body camera, bordered at times on chaos. “Are you serious?” The student cried out. “Oh, my God, why?  I really didn’t.  Why are you arresting me?  Why are you arresting me?”

White cop, black suspect.  A scene many of us might be tempted to process through our own, personal biases:

Police officer:  “Why do you think you’re gonna die?”
Student:  “Because I’m scared of police! I’m a black man in custody. I’ve never been in the back of a police car!”

At court, roughly nine months later, the young man, a student at Oberlin College in Ohio, received a reduced sentence after pleading guilty to attempted theft, essentially confirming the police report of what had happened.

A protest against racism, and a .5 million defamation award
After a student from Oberlin College was arrested for shoplifting, sparking charges of racial profiling, the owners of Gibson’s Bakery accused the college of aiding demonstrators and causing reputational damage.  CBS NEWS

David Gibson, one of the owners of Gibson’s Bakery in Oberlin, described what happened when his son, Allyn, was at the cash register when the student tried to buy a bottle of wine: “My son confronted him and would not accept the false ID. Realized it was a fake ID as well.  But realized that he was also trying to steal two bottles of wine. And at that point he denied him the sale.

“He attempted to take a picture of him with his phone. At that point, the young man took his phone and shoved it in his face and was able to run out of the store.

“My son and I both pursued [him].  My son’s quite a bit faster than I am at this age.  And outside of the store [he] tried to detain him by hugging him.  And he fell to the ground.  And I witnessed all of this.  And then we had multiple people come in and start hitting my son.”

But there is an alternate version of events:

One eyewitness, recorded by the police body camera, said at the scene: “And he comes running out of nowhere and tackles him and shoves him … And then you guys came and arrested them instead of the person who assaulted this kid for no reason!  And we all, he saw it; there were, like, three more people inside who saw it.  And we can all testify that that is what happened.”

The police weren’t buying that version; but David Gibson knew that trouble was brewing. When the officer at the scene told him, “We’re not going off what they’re saying; we’re charging him with robbery,” Gibson remarked, “They’re going to be trashing us.”

It wasn’t long coming. The next morning, in fact, a crowd appeared chanting, “No justice, no peace!  No justice, no peace!”

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