Gibson’s Bakery in Oberlin, Ohio, has been in business since 1885.

It sells a variety of baked goods along with wine and other foods.

On November 9, 2016, Gibson’s employees noticed what they thought was a person shoplifting two bottles of wine hidden in his jacket. That alleged shoplifter was a black Oberlin College student. When they attempted to stop and photograph him, they were attacked by several other people accompanying the student.

The police were called. The Oberlin town police department has posted the Incident Report online, reflecting the arrest of the alleged shoplifter and two others involved in the scuffle. Here is the first paragraph of the police report:

On Wednesday, November 9, 2016, at approximately 4:58pm, officers responded to the area of Gibson’s Bakery in reference to a report of a fight in progress. As officers were responding to the area, dispatch advised that this was involving an alleged theft complaint. Dispatch advised that Allyn Gibson, who is an employee of Gibson’s Bakery, was attempting to apprehend a subject who Allyn had witnessed attempt to steal several items. As officers approached the area, Sgt. Ortiz, and Officer Feuerstein both stated they observed Allyn Gibson lying on his back with several individuals kneeling over him punching and kicking him with several other individuals in the immediate area. Officers attempted to gain control of the situation and were met several times with resistance from several different individuals. After a few minutes officers were finally able to take one female into custody and calm the incident and attempt to figure out what had taken place.

http://www.morningjournal.com/general-news/20161111/oberlin-college-students-protest-local-bakery

What could have been a simple shoplifting incident and arrest created a firestorm when Oberlin College students, including the Black Student Union, Student Senate and College Democrats, alleged racial profiling and launched a boycott of Gibson’s. Protests were launched outside the bakery:

The Oberlin News-Tribune reported, ‘End racial profiling’ shouts OC crowd after arrests:

“Hold Gibson’s accountable” and “Gibson’s is racist,” chanted a throng of about 150 Thursday outside the West College Street bakery.

Oberlin College students, bearing signs saying “No justice, no peace” and “End racial profiling,” protested for hours and called for a boycott of the 131-year-old business. While they took care not to block the entrance, they did hurl expletives at the few customers who entered.

“This is a racist establishment with a long account of racial profiling and discrimination,” said literature provided by OC dean of students Meredith Raimondo, who stood with the crowd….

Trey James, a worker at Gibson’s, said the 19-year-old was actually 17 and had attempted to shoplift alcohol. He denied the choking allegation, saying he was an eye-witness to the Tappan Square portion of the incident.

“When you shoplift you get arrested. It doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is or your religion or your ethnicity. If you shoplift, you get busted,” he said.

Oberlin College Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo provided this statement to Legal Insurrection in response to the news report that she was passing out literature accusing Gibson’s of racism:

Information and literature available at the protest was prepared by organizers, not the college. I passed along a flyer that was circulating among the crowd to a news tribune reporter who was seeking information from students about what was taking place. I did not prepare the flyer and do not have a copy of the flyer. My presence was to help ensure that a safe environment was maintained.

Protests continued into the weekend:

The Oberlin Student Senate passed a resolution calling for a boycott of Gibson’s:

oberlin-student-senate-resolution-gibsons-bakery-facebook

https://m.facebook.com/OCStudentSenate/photos/a.10150653508714368.414877.179900494367/10155590200144368/?type=3&source=48

The Oberlin College Democrats joined the boycott call:

oberlin-college-democrats-gibsons-bakery-boycott-support

The student-run Oberlin Review reported, Students Call for Gibson’s Bakery Boycott:

Chants of “No justice, no peace” reverberated across campus from early morning into late last night as hundreds of protesters lined West College Street, calling for a boycott of Gibson’s Bakery.

An altercation between Gibson’s employee Allyn Gibson and College sophomore Elijah Aladin Wednesday evening led to the Oberlin Police Department arresting Aladin and classmates Endia Lawrence and Cecelia Whettstone, all of who are Black, in what many students are saying is a case of racial profiling….

The police report and the eyewitnesses sharply disagreed about who the aggressor was….

According to Oberlin Police Lieutenant Michael McCloskey, store employees have a legal right to detain shoplifters, although he noted that the department does not recommend that employees do so because it often leads to situations escalating.

“The Ohio Revised Code does allow store proprietors or employees of those stores to detain and arrest shoplifters,” McCloskey said. “If they have probable cause to believe that someone is trying to take items from the store, they can legally, in a reasonable manner, detain them for a length of time until police get there to arrest the suspect.”

McCloskey also said that Aladin was charged with robbery, a felony, instead of shoplifting, a misdemeanor, because of the physical altercation. Robbery in the third degree, which is how the incident will likely be categozied, can carry a sentence of one to five years in prison.

Gonzalez said Gibson was in the wrong, regardless of whether Aladin was shoplifting. This echoed the sentiment of many students, who said that the situation was rife with racially fueled undertones.

“If he had been shoplifting, that’s not a reason to chase him and throw him into the ground and beat him up,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez worried President-elect Donald Trump’s victory would embolden racist behavior.

“People are afraid that this is how it’s going to be,” Gonzalez said. “For me, I’m Puerto Rican. As a person of color, it’s f—ing scary.”

However, to long-time Gibson’s employee Trey James, who is Black, race had nothing to do with it.

“If you’re caught shoplifting, you’re going to end up getting arrested,” James said. “When you steal from the store, it doesn’t matter what color you are. You can be purple, blue, green, if you steal, you get caught, you get arrested.”

According to a flyer distributed by protesters, this incident was far from Gibson’s first instance of alleged racial bias.
“This is a racist establishment with a long account of racial profiling and discrimination. Today we urge you to shop elsewhere,” the statement read.

Student Senate also passed a resolution yesterday stating, “the Students of Oberlin College immediately cease all support, financial and otherwise, of Gibson’s Food Market and Bakery.” The group also called for President Marvin Krislov, Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo, other administrators and general faculty to publicly condemn Gibson’s….

This morning at Dascomb Hall, a sign replaced the bagels and donuts from Gibson’s that are usually served at breakfast, reading, “Our apologies for the inconvenience.”

The College issued as statement on the incident attributing some of the tension to the presidential election results, Krislov, Raimondo Respond to Student Senate Resolution, which reads in part:

This has been a difficult few days for our community, not simply because of the events at Gibson’s Bakery, but because of the fears and concerns that many are feeling in response to the outcome of the presidential election. We write foremost to acknowledge the pain and sadness that many of you are experiencing. We want you to know that the administration, faculty, and staff are here to support you as we work through this moment together.

Regarding the incident at Gibson’s, we are deeply troubled because we have heard from students that there is more to the story than what has been generally reported. We will commit every resource to determining the full and true narrative, including exploring whether this is a pattern and not an isolated incident. We are dedicated to a campus and community that treats all faculty, staff and students fairly and without discrimination. We expect that our community businesses and friends share the same values and commitments.

….We will continue to work on these matters in the coming days to make sure that our students, staff, and faculty can feel safe and secure throughout our town.

We are grateful for the determination of our students and for the leadership demonstrated by Student Senate….

Marvin Krislov
President

Meredith Raimondo
Vice President and Dean of Students

That last sentence, praising the Student Senate, appears to be an implicit endorsement of the boycott resolution.

This could have been a case of mob rule destroying a business. But instead, the community rallied around Gibson’s.

https://www.facebook.com/bakershanecheney/photos/a.1286064591428223.1073741829.1285514738149875/1352955791405769/?type=3&theater

Cleveland 19 reports, Cash Mob:Bakery making up for lost funds:

A cash mob is helping boost an Oberlin bakery’s bottom line.

Gibson’s Bakery hopes it will make up for lost business after several days of protests.

“I knew several days ago when the protests were going on that there would be counter protests,” said Oberlin resident Tony Wilgus.

This week’s demonstrations calling for a boycott started after store employees confronted and fought with an alleged shoplifter who is accused of trying to steal two bottles of wine. Police say that suspect, 19-year-old Jonathan Aladin claims he was racially profiled which sparked the protests.

The community reacting with a cash mob supporting this family business.

“It makes us happy,” said Trey James.

James has been coming to the store since he was a kid and now works there.

“It’s nice to see that there are folks that are willing to come out and support a local business like this,” added James.

“I was hoping they’d have a cash mob. I couldn’t remember the name of it but I was coming here anyway,” said Dianne Gerhart.

Gerhart drove up from Elyria after the ordeal was posted on Facebook.

Aladin is in jail waiting for his day in court, as are two of his female friends who were with him and charged with assault.

Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Gibson’s Bakery Facebook Page has posts thanking everyone:

https://www.facebook.com/bakershanecheney/posts/1352473958120619

Gibson’s Bakery Support Page on Facebook has been set up. It does not appear to be affiliated with the bakery.  Here is a sample of some of the comments. [See Update below – page removed by Facebook after organized student reporting of page.]

https://www.facebook.com/SupportGibsonsBakery/posts/555403007998151

https://www.facebook.com/SupportGibsonsBakery/posts/555322391339546

https://www.facebook.com/SupportGibsonsBakery/photos/a.555040168034435.1073741829.555031528035299/555040151367770/?type=3

I spoke with Allyn Gibson, who was involved in the incident. He didn’t want to say much, but did say that it was an “unfortunate incident” of a person who was caught shoplifting and now is charged. I asked him how it had affected the store’s business. He said that the “community came together” to support them and “I hope it works.”

This incident shows how some campus groups can exploit pre-existing racial and other tensions to mobilize. Certainly that has been the case at Oberlin for several years, as we have reported.

UPDATE:

Gibson’s Bakery Support Page on Facebook was taken down after an organized effort by students to report the page:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1325943187418069&set=a.299520000060398.84816.100000072014978&type=3

gibsons-bakery-support-page-takedown-melody-strmel

https://www.facebook.com/groups/240312936018219/permalink/1143316272384543/

[The title was changed and photos and links added after publication]