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Shoplifting arrest incites protests at Gibson's in Oberlin

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    Hundreds of protesters outside Gibson's Bakery in Oberlin. The crowd was protesting the shoplifting arrests at the store on Wednesday. Profanities were blurred in this image.

    BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE

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    Protesters hold a sign outside Gibson's Bakery in Oberlin.

    BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE

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    A man walks through a crowd of protesters to shop at Gibson's in Oberlin on Thursday.

    BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE

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OBERLIN — A crowd of protesters overtook the sidewalks of West College Street on Thursday after what many of them believed to be a racially fueled incident at Gibson’s Bakery the night before.

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Hundreds of protesters outside Gibson's Bakery in Oberlin. The crowd was protesting the shoplifting arrests at the store on Wednesday. Profanities were blurred in this image.

BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE Enlarge

Police estimated about 300 people, many of whom were Oberlin College students, were in front of the store and across the street claiming Allyn Gibson assaulted 19-year-old Jonathan Aladin shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday when he was trying to buy items at the store.

One of the organizers of the event, who declined to be named, said the event was part of a history of “racial profiling and discrimination.”

“There is a need for justice to be served to hold Gibson’s accountable for these patterns of injustices and unlawful behavior that have been allowed to continue and go unchecked,” said another organizer, who also declined to be named. “We will not allow for this to continue any longer.”

Many protesters declined to have their picture taken or speak with Chronicle-Telegram staff, but one man who didn’t want to be named claimed that Gibson, who is white, attacked Aladin, whom several protesters had erroneously identified as a 17-year-old.

A report from the Oberlin Police Department said Sgt. Victor Ortiz and Officer Raymond Feuerstein were called to West College Street on Wednesday night because Gibson, Aladin and two females –— Endia Lawrence and Cecelia Whettstone — were engaged in a fight across the street from the store.

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Protesters hold a sign outside Gibson's Bakery in Oberlin.

BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE Enlarge

After the fight was broken up, the report said Gibson told Officer Marc Ellis that Aladin attempted to buy one bottle of wine from the store while concealing two under his shirt.

“Allyn stated he advised Aladin that he knew he had the concealed items and told Aladin not to leave because he was contacting the police,” the report said. “Allyn stated Aladin attempted to leave the store so Allyn took out his phone and attempted to take a picture of Aladin and that’s when Aladin slapped Allyn’s hand and phone and caused it to strike Allyn in the face. Allyn stated Aladin began to run to the back of the store throwing the two bottles of wine on the floor.”

The report said Aladin began to hit Gibson before leaving the store to run across the street and meet Lawrence and Whettstone, at which point Gibson also crossed the street to attempt to detain Aladin again.

Gibson said he was knocked to the ground and punched repeatedly by all three individuals with Aladain saying at least once “I’m going to kill you.”

The report said Gibson’s father, David, as well as cashier Brent Gingery gave a similar series of events. Ortiz and Feuerstein both said they witnessed Gibson on his back with Aladin, Lawrence and Whettstone punching and kicking him.

Police Lt. Mike McCloskey said because of Aladin’s use of force against Gibson, the charges were upgraded from shoplifting to robbery. He was arrested at the scene Wednesday and released Thursday.

Lawrence and Whettstone both were charged with assault.

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A man walks through a crowd of protesters to shop at Gibson's in Oberlin on Thursday.

BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE Enlarge

Protesters said they felt Gibson racially profiled Aladin and found it unfair the 19-year-old was arrested instead of Gibson, chanting that people should boycott the establishment.

Jim Lawland Jr. said he saw live feeds of the protest on Facebook and felt compelled to come to Gibson’s and purchase his lunch.

“I’ve been going to Gibson’s for 10 years, and I know for a fact that Allyn isn’t a racist,” the Wellington resident said. “It doesn’t make sense, and these protesters must not know all of the facts because what happened isn’t worth protesting over.”

Off-duty North Ridgeville police Officer Adam Freas, an Oberlin resident, also stopped in to shop at Gibson’s on Thursday evening. Freas said protesters didn’t attempt to block him as he entered the store and they did not say anything disrespectful or derogatory toward him.

“I just wanted to come down here to support Mr. Gibson and his business,” Freas said.

The incident was the third instance reported to police this week in which someone allegedly attempted to shoplift from Gibson’s. Melissa Harris, 20, was arrested and charged on Sunday, and Davis Sawyer, 22, was arrested and charged on Monday.

Both Harris and Sawyer are white and students at Oberlin College as are Aladin, Lawrence and Whettstone.

Several signs at the protest used expletives and called Gibson a racist, but store cashier Trey James said that’s far from the truth.

“The guy got caught stealing and got arrested for it. They think it’s racial profiling, and it’s not,” James, who is black, said. “It was a pretty clear-cut case. If you shoplift, you get prosecuted, regardless of your orientation, race, background, political viewpoint or anything else.”

Donelle Thompson, 38, of Elyria, stopped to counter-protest Thursday evening.

“This is not a race issue, this is a matter of crime, plain and simple,” she said. “There are too many entitled kids.”

James said Gibson was not available for comment Thursday.

Contact Katie Nix at 329-7129 or knix@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @KatieHNix.




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