OBERLIN — They came on foot and on motorcycles, in cars and trucks and from all corners of the state to Gibson’s Bakery for doughnuts, coffee and, in their words, justice.
Gibsons’s Bakery has been the focus of attention in Lorain County for the latter part of last week after students from Oberlin College boycotted the store and claimed racial profiling had a play in the Wednesday arrest of a 19-year-old accused of shoplifting. Protesters were not seen in front of the store Saturday.
In reaction, a community of support formed around Gibson’s and Saturday they formed a so-called “cash mob” to descend upon the store.
Trey James, one of about half a dozen employees running around Gibson’s Bakery taking orders from a seemingly never-ending line of hungry customers, yelled out words of thanks for the support in between taking pastry orders.
“We sincerely appreciate the outpouring of support from the community,” James said, before turning his attention back to the line.
The protesters, mainly students from Oberlin College, alleged that racial profiling was to blame for the arrest of Jonathan Aladin, who was charged with robbery after he was accused of concealing two bottles of wine under his shirt.
According to a police report, Allyn Gibson, whose family owns Gibson’s Bakery, was attempting to detain Aladin while Gibson’s father, David Gibson, called the police. The report said Aladin ran outside the store and Allyn Gibson chased him and tried to grab him again.
When police arrived, they found Allyn Gibson on the ground with Aladin and two women, Endia Lawrence and Cecelia Whettstone, kicking and punching him. The women were charged with assault and released on $1,000 bail. Aladin was charged with robbery and taken to Lorain County Jail, where he was held until his arraignment Friday. He’s been ordered not to enter Gibson’s and is set to appear in Oberlin Municipal Court on Dec. 14 for a preliminary hearing.
“We think they were unjustly accused of doing a wrongdoing and we traveled about 50 miles to get here,” said David Vincent, as he took a photo of his wife and son standing in front of the store. They had come from North Royalton to support the store and were drinking glass bottles of orange soda purchased inside.
Robert Morris, who said he owns several of the downtown buildings, hoped for a peaceful resolution for both sides.
“We love the college students,” Morris said. “That’s one of the things that’s great about Oberlin. It’s a very diverse community and I’m glad they can protest, but other people have their opinion and hopefully everyone’s got a chance to demonstrate and present their side of it.”
The most noticeable group of supporters were the members of motorcycle clubs in attendance. Their motorcycles filled the parking spots in front of the store as they sat, clad in leather, at tables outside the bakery.
“We came for the doughnuts,” said Lenny Lash, president of the Iron Coffins Ohio Chapter. He offered no further explanation when asked.
Though many were glad to see the support, not everyone was happy about their presence.
Diane Sherwood, a resident of Oberlin, walked through the group asking the motorcycle club members to leave.
“This is not about them and they’re scaring people,” Sherwood said.
Many of the supporters were asking where the protesters were, one could be heard threatening violence if they showed up.
“These guys are not part of what we’re doing. They’ve come to see what’s exciting here,” Sherwood said of the motorcycle clubs. “There are students who have been mistreated for a long time by the store and they are the ones that are demonstrating.”
Ann Francis, another Oberlin resident, was walking through the crowd after holding a peace vigil, a weekly occurrence in Tappan Square.
“I’m not really involved in this although I hope that there will be some peaceful resolution of this and that we have some clarity of what’s happened here,” Francis said.
Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov and vice president and dean of students Meredith Raimondo, issued a statement Friday saying they’ve heard conflicting stories from students than what’s in the police report and believe there is “more to the story than what has been generally reported.”
Jim Lawhead Jr. called the students “social justice warriors … who have no clue about the facts.”
He had a different explanation about why there were no protesters.
“They’ve been down here raising hell for three days and then they find out there’s a cash mob and there’s no one here,” Lawhead said, gesticulating with a chocolate ice cream cone he purchased at Gibson’s. “You stand up to these clowns and they’ll walk away because they have no argument. It’s as simple as that.”
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