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Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College – Trial Day 4 – As protests grew, Mrs. Gibson was “very nervous and afraid”

Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College – Trial Day 4 – As protests grew, Mrs. Gibson was “very nervous and afraid”

“we had to let employees go, and down to a skeleton staff”

Today was Day 4 of witness testimony in Gibson Bros. v. Oberlin College. The events giving rise to the lawsuit have been said to represent “the worst of identity politics.”  You can read about some of the background on this case here.

Issues involving political ideology can get impersonal at times. In reading the comments and tweets about this lawsuit between a small business and a small college in Ohio, the public seems to be taking sides regarding their left or right leanings. Hardly anyone wonders how it feels to be forced to defend yourself in your home town against what you see as crazy accusations.

In Gibson’s Bros. v. Oberlin College, that focus just on ideology changed today. The jury hearing this case heard from the wife of the owner of the little bakery and convenience store about how hard it was for them to cower in embarrassment after a group of college students protested outside their business and branded them as racist.

On the other side of the coin, the jury heard from a vice president of communication for the school, who had hard time explaining how the school had little or no feeling for how bad Gibson’s felt after being labeled wrongly as racist, a sort of modern day version of “trial by fire” with the liberal arts college lighting the match. The communication specialist actually claimed the students were right about their accusations of racism, by Gibson’s against students, because the “police report is bullshit.”

Lorna Gibson, Wife of David Gibson

Lorna Gibson, wife of plaintiff David Gibson for about 40 years, was neither a crying sympathy-seeking witness nor an angry finger-pointer in being the first to give the family’s personal story on this case. Their son, Allyn, was involved in a scuffle with the shoplifters. Her father-in-law, 90-year old Allyn W. Gibson, is a named plaintiff, along with her husband David, and the bakery.

She was generally still confused by what the Gibson’s have gone through, trying to figure out why the university with which they shared the tiny city – for whom the business had worked for and with for more than 100 years — had used them, in Gibson’s attorney’s words, to “appease the students.”

Ms. Gibson said the family had no idea the protests were going to happen the day after three African-American students had been arrested for shoplifting and trespassing at their store. “I came into work at about eight in the morning, because that is our usual time to open and start doing the bakery items for the school, and we didn’t think the shoplifting [the day before] was much of anything.”

But later that morning, she heard through the grapevine that a protest was coming, and saw numerous students and others gathering outside their store. For those who have never been there, the store is extremely small, about 50 feet wide in front, with a small glass front door and big windows up front by the cash register.  As customers walk in, there are glass enclosed cases with freshly made cookies and candy on the left, ice cream on the right, and coolers and groceries in the back.

[Photo: Daniel McGraw for Legal Insurrection Foundation]

A narrow aisle is all that allows one to go from front to back.

[Photo: Daniel McGraw for Legal Insurrection Foundation]

Lorna Gibson immediately noticed some students coming in and harassing customers. “[A few students] came in and began taking pictures of people and making nasty comments to our customers shopping,” she said. “I asked them to leave and they wouldn’t, and then they started pushing their cameras in my face and yelling things at me.”

“The customers were being bullied and stopped from moving in the aisle and being yelled at,” she said. “I wouldn’t have this any more in our store and had to get them out.”

But once the student picture-takers left, she saw the crowd gathering and getting bigger (eventually hit about 200). Her longtime friend, Vicky Gaines, an Oberlin College staff nurse in the school’s health care facility, and an African-American Oberlin city native, fought her way into the store to comfort her friend. “I was so glad to see her,” Lorna said. “She calmed me down and said we should go outside to show them we weren’t afraid of them. I really was very nervous and afraid.”

They went outside, with “Vicky giving me a kiss on the cheek in front of all these protesters, and she said very loudly so they could all hear her, ‘Don’t worry, we’re all behind you.’ ”

Lorna Gibson said they spent the day pretty inside the store with very few customers, as the protesters weren’t actively blocking their door, but making it very difficult for customers to get through the crowd and the racist chants. But in early evening, Ms. Gibson wanted to go outside and get their few sidewalk tables and chairs back in the store. The protesters didn’t want her to do that.

“I told them I’d let them use these tables and chairs all day to protest, and to please let us have them now so we can put them back in our store now.” They eventually moved on and she got the outside furniture back in the store. Police then had to escort her and her father-in-law, Allyn W. Gibson, home after the first day of protests. They did that again for the following days as the protests continued.

Lorna Gibson also testified how some employees had their tires slashed, business dropped by about 50% in the months after the protests (“we had to let employees go, and down to a skeleton staff”), and how both her husband and his father, both plaintiffs in the case, have had serious physical and emotional damage.

Allyn W. Gibson, her 90-year-old father-in-law, fell and broke some bones in his neck when his home was broken into a few months after the protest. No one has been found or charged in the break-in, and police don’t know if it was protest-related. “He loved being at the store, loved socializing with our customers, but he can’t anymore,” she said.

As for her husband, David, Lorna says he has changed a lot. He was out of town with a previously planned trip with one of their sons when the protests occurred, and ever since, the event of November 2016  has made him “very sad and upset.” David Gibson was in the courtroom listening to his wife.

“We have all been disturbed by the lies that have been told about us, and the store being targeted like it was,” she told the jury. “David [Gibson] didn’t want to even go out and socialize with his friends any more because so many people looked at him in a strange way. He was so well known in this community, and he is ashamed now at what he has left to his sons.”

“It isn’t just a job for him and all of us. It’s been our life. It is crucial for him and our family. It is us.”

Oberlin College VP of Communications Ben Jones

Ben Jones, the vice president of communications for the college since 2008, testified as an “adverse witness” (meaning he was getting questioned by those suing his employer).  What his testimony showed was that the college geared their response to the protest and its aftermath so that it was in support of the students, and hurt Gibson’s in that student support process.

Jones helped draft a letter that the school president, Marvin Krislov, and the dean of students, Meredith Raimondo (a defendant in the case) sent out to students on Nov. 11, two days after the shoplifting incident and during the second day of protests. One paragraph said this:

“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.”

Jones testified that a local paper asked them in late 2016 if they had done the investigative effort they had described in the letter, specifically by devoting “every resource” in finding the truth.  But they had not done any formal investigation. Raimondo suggested to Jones they should “dodge” the media’s question because “our phrasing was unfortunate” that they said they were indeed doing an investigation.

They eventually did tell the media they did no investigation of whether “there was more to the story than what has been generally reported … including exploring whether this is a pattern and not an isolated incident” as the president and the dean of students had written.

Jones also testified the school administration asked student senate leaders (identified as “Kam” and “Thobeka)” for any suggestions or concerns for the letter from the school President and Dean of Students.

The students sent their criticism back, and they were generally good with the letter and approved it. “The greatest part is [that you are saying] there is more to the story than the police report or what is generally accepted.”

“We are grateful for the conscientiousness of our students,” Jones responded.

A longtime Oberlin resident, Emily Crawford, who also worked in the school’s communications department under Jones, wrote as the protests were going on one of her concerns that Gibson’s was being wrongly accused of being racist, specifically that “the students are on the wrong side of this issue” and “they refuse to [listen to] anything that doesn’t fit their narrative … the townspeople are furious. I find this misdirected rage very disturbing.”

The email response from Ben Jones was: “Gibson’s is not clean on this … The police report is bullshit, so obviously biased toward the Gibson’s … But the bigger issue, is that this is not an isolated incident, but a pattern.”

Jones continued his email response by writing that his evidence for his opinions on this racism and racial profiling by Gibson’s was confirmed by “high school kids who showed up yesterday to join the protest.”

Gibson’s attorney Lee Plakas seemed agitated by Jones claiming that the emails and texts had to be understood “under different contexts” to be correctly make sense in the court. Plakas shot back, “Would it have killed Oberlin College to say, ‘We got it wrong.’ ”

Jones answered, “This was between the students and Gibson’s. We don’t speak for the students. I was neither wrong nor involved.”

He also said he never talked to any police officers investigating the shoplifting incident and its aftermath after writing the “police report is bullshit.”

Plakas then quoted Raimondo in an email she sent that said “I’d say unleash the students if I wasn’t convinced this needs to be put behind us.”

“Did the school unleash the students like a pack of wild dogs on the Gibson’s and can’t admit they are wrong for doing that,” Plakas asked Jones.

Jones didn’t answer vocally, and just shook his head signaling “No.”

The civil trial resumes tomorrow and is expect to last until the end of the month.

Daniel McGraw is a freelance writer and author in Lakewood, Ohio. Follow him on Twitter @danmcgraw1


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inspectorudy | May 15, 2019 at 9:04 pm

As with all of the SJW bullshit, this has to be met head-on. Every college in America is guilty of backing a small protesting group of their students in their “Fight” for social justice. In reality, it is anarchy. I just saw online today a female student at UNC who just walked up to a pro-life demonstrator and grabbed his sign and left with it. He yelled for the police and they nabbed her. After she was told she was being arrested, she was in shock. She actually believed that she was in the right because they were hurting all women getting abortions! This is an attitude that has to be crushed.

johnnytremain | May 15, 2019 at 9:33 pm

Thank you for this fine reporting.

JusticeDelivered | May 15, 2019 at 9:49 pm

Oberlin looks worse day by day. They are an incredibly arrogant nasty bunch of SOBs. I hope that when Gibsons is done with the college that they go after all the perps. individually.

    counsel4pay in reply to JusticeDelivered. | May 16, 2019 at 12:31 am

    Frankly, the mood of the college is so toxic, if Gibson’s wins, they will be compelled to close their doors. The lives of good and kind people have been irrevocably destroyed by this event.

      JusticeDelivered in reply to counsel4pay. | May 16, 2019 at 8:22 am

      It sounds to me like the townspeople do not much like Oberlin College, so why wouldn’t Gibsons be able to stay in business? In fact, if Gibsons continue to have problems with the college, they might be in a pretty good position to sue them again, and take another bite out of them.

      What is important is that punitive damages from this are severe, as in tens or even hundreds of millions. Damages are the way to make Oberlin College really regret their conduct, and they are the best way to keep the bakery open.

        The problem is that the city of Oberlin has a population of about 8,300 people and the college has about 3,000. So, that’s more than a third of their customers gone — even more when you consider that said 3,000 are young and usually wealthy, which are the group who are more likely to frequent a bakery.

        The fact that the town clearly doesn’t like the college is what amazes me. College towns elsewhere usually love their college! It is even more dramatic when you consider that Oberlin tries to attract students who want to make the world a better place — making the world better apparently doesn’t involve being neighborly.

          healthguyfsu in reply to slither. | May 16, 2019 at 4:19 pm

          I don’t know what towns you are referencing but love of the local college is definitely not universal in small towns.

          In some cases, there is a good equilibrium. In other cases, quite the opposite. The college does a bit of “throwing its weight around” when it grows and is responsible for jobs, capital growth, and tax revenue around town.

      herm2416 in reply to counsel4pay. | May 16, 2019 at 10:00 am

      They haven’t closed their doors yet.

    If and when they win, this should be a lesson to all of the other SJW/PC/Cultural marxism forms of higher ed………..should be.
    Let’s hope it’s a start.

So, BLM was a nexus of hate, projection, and opportunity. #HateLovesAbortion

They literally still can’t see what is wrong here. I was going to type that I admired their candor in their responses, but now it seems to be more that they simply aren’t aware of what they are saying.

I am also thinking of how this testimony fits into any narrative down the line that they tried to no avail to settle this out of court. This was a claim made in the Oberlin Review article that appeared a couple of weeks ago. At this point I am wondering if a plea of insanity might be entered, because it really seems that they don’t know where they are or what they have done.

    Tom Servo in reply to MajorWood. | May 16, 2019 at 8:04 am

    now, one never knows what any particular jury will do, but as a matter of law, Ben Jones testimony was even more damning for his side than Raimondo’s was. When he wrote “this was not just an isolated incident, but part of a pattern”, even though he and the school had done NO investigation and had no evidence to support that claim – that is a statement of Fact that is pure Libel, made with malicious intent, and was done by a School Employee while he was serving in his capacity as a senior level school employee.

    That’s Gibson’s entire case, right there.

      Milhouse in reply to Tom Servo. | May 16, 2019 at 5:27 pm

      Yes, exactly. This is the point I have been trying to make here repeatedly. To win Gibson needs to prove Oberlin made specific statements of fact that were false and defamatory, and that damaged it. This guy just make that task a lot easier.

    healthguyfsu in reply to MajorWood. | May 16, 2019 at 4:20 pm

    No, something is fishy. Their legal counsel should know better even if they don’t.

I feel for the Bakery. If they ‘were’ actually ‘racists’, surely their business would have withered away into nothing.

They were a successful business until these fake protests.

Hoping the Bakery prevails and wins BIGLY.

Great reporting. #WaitingForUpdatesAndVerdict

    pst314 in reply to LisaGinNZ. | May 16, 2019 at 6:53 am

    …If they ‘were’ actually ‘racists’…

    One of the most important point of Politically Correct persecution is that the victim must indeed be innocent: It is only by successfully destroying a totally innocent target that the Left can prove its power and so intimidate everyone else.

Gibson’s Bakery is the “Canary in the Coal Mine” for America. If they lose, America loses and will descend into a Mao’s Communist Hell of “Correct Speech and Thought” which has happened many times in the last century in other countries. Just look at all the Antisemitism on College campuses today and how the College Administrations do nothing to combat it and even promote it. Are we in 1984?

    counsel4pay in reply to jerusalemcats. | May 16, 2019 at 12:28 am

    Good point. This is not quite as critical as Colorado’s Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, wherein the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of a baker who declined to make a gay wedding cake, but it is still “a big deal.” I pray the jury, the judge, and subsequent appellate courts will reject the SJW mania which threatens to destroy our Republic.

      That Supreme Court ruling hinged on the fact the Justice Kennedy was annoyed by the tone of Colorado’s so-called Human Rights Commission, and he hinted in his ruling that if it had been a little less strident in its rhetoric he might have ruled the other way. It is terrifying to think that religious liberty that day depended on how grumpy Kennedy was when he wrote his opinion.

Oberlin’s administrators, like Oberlin’s students, decided “the police report is bullshit” because they simply didn’t like what the police report said. The police report recounted the facts of what actually happened in the shoplifting/assault incident, and the Oberlin snowflakes and “social justice” agitators weren’t about to acknowledge any facts or evidence that contradicted their treasured narrative that blacks are always innocent victims in horribly raaaaaacist Amerikkka.

    MajorWood in reply to Observer. | May 16, 2019 at 10:26 am

    Oberlin et al denying the police report is very similar to all of the BLM complaints. White cop shoots black suspect = automatic racism. So they requested that body cams be employed. And what have the body cams shown us? 99% of the time that there is an isolated shooting with only two people present, the shooting was justified. Notice how that aspect of the BLM mania has disappeared with evidence? But the mindset is still present here. “Evidence contrary to what we believe is wrong and does not exist.” We used to joke about the “I’ll see it when I believe it” crowd (aka anatomists), but I sort of believe this is the actual mantra of the social scientists and is possibly on a placard in King Hall.

counsel4pay | May 16, 2019 at 12:22 am

Procedural Note: Calling someone as an “adverse witness” calls into play special rules, one of the most important of which is to allow the attorney to ask “leading questions”, i.e. questions which suggest an answer. When used skillfully, this can be a fierce weapon of effective examination.

I expect at closing that Gibson’s attorney will either have “blow ups” of key “sound bites/documents” or electronic projections similar to power point. One I would like to see, in huge letters, would be this: “We will commit every resource to determining the full and true narrative…” [That’s a money shot.]

If the author of the police report is called and s/he is credible and professional, Oberlin’s defense will be further compromised. This is something we outsiders do not know, “what is the local view on local cops?”

Plaintiff’s attorney was astute to have multiple, supportive black witnesses give testimony favorable to Gibsons. The comments above about Mr. Gibson’s testimony are more important with regard to damages. That’s fine, but LIABILITY is the crux of this case.

I wish I could be there. Thank you for the reports.

Sorry, folks, but the chances of Oberlin ultimately being held responsible for their actions in this case are pretty close to nil. Even if the jury decides against Oberlin, you can bet a state or Federal court* will swoop in and save Oberlin. Terrorist groups like BLM and Antifa serve as the unofficial “muscle” for leftist administrators and faculty on a disturbing number of colleges and universities, and the problem is getting worse. No way will these courts allow someone to successfully challenge the terrorists.

(* – It is no good saying these courts have no jurisdiction. Since when did the law stop the courts from protecting Progressivism? From the deranged Obamacare ruling courtesy of John Roberts to DACA becoming the law of the land despite never being passed by Congress to Jim Acosta somehow having an inalienable right to a White House press pass that the general public doesn’t, too many courts do what they want when they want how they want, the law and the Constitution be damned.)

    Tom Servo in reply to Recovering Lutheran. | May 16, 2019 at 8:15 am

    I think you are going to be surprised – this is not a Federal criminal trial, with endless appeals on Constitutional grounds. This a State tort law trial, in a State Court, and the Juries decision (whatever that may be) is going to be very difficult – in fact close to impossible to overturn. (unless they try to slap on a huge amount of punitive damages, because the SCOTUS has been on a mission to slap down huge punitive damage awards in every case for about 20 years now)

    But, this is a big reason for the Judge in this case to be so measured and careful in his bench rulings. (and I think he has been) One of the main grounds for overturning a ruling on appeal is a showing that the Judge made an Error of Law in his conduct of the case. But a good Judge can guarantee that will never be an issue, and I think Judge Miraldi is a good judge.

    First, apologies for my big thumb accidentally down voting you, your post does not deserve it.

    That said, the plaintiff’s attorney have established two key points that may permit the court to find for them. First, they have established that the college officials have a certain ‘hardness of heart’ that borders on the malicious. This is evidenced by Raimondo’s witnessed participation at the protest, her statement about ‘unleashing the students’ and the broader disdain by the college. Second, they have established that the college ignored the facts of the case that resulted in profound financial and reputational damage to the Gibson’s.

    Finally and perhaps most important, at least from the article, they chose to ignore the damage being done to their relations within the community. The plaintiff’s attorney have (I believe) changed the image of the college from being a sort of goofy college of the arts to that of an uninvited cancer.

    Yeah it’s “iffy” based on this article’s info IMO.

    The school didn’t stop, but I don’t see them encouraging. The non-investigation doesn’t look good for the school, but it’s not a smoking gun either, rather its just an empty promise.

    The smoking gun IMO if any is the organization of the student groups and school resources which partook in the this.

    I do know that the very liberal D1 university where my wife worked in MARCOM, the president (who is a lesbian) would have put the kabosh on this lynching hard and fast. Stuff still happens there before an adult gets involved to stop it, but even the liberals are not completely dumb in seeing the repercussions. I am surprised to see no one behaving like an adult was involved here. I will add that the many of the marcom people she worked with would have easily said “police report is bullshit”. Don’t get me started on what was going on there with mid level managers after Trump got elected.

      Observer in reply to Andy. | May 16, 2019 at 3:25 pm

      “The school didn’t stop, but I don’t see them encouraging.
      . . .

      The smoking gun IMO if any is the organization of the student groups and school resources which partook in the this.”

      There has already been testimony that the dean of students (one of the individuals that Oberlin admits is authorized to speak for the entire school) was organizing the protests in front of Gibson’s and supervising the handing out of the fliers falsely accusing Gibson’s of being racist. There has also been testimony that Oberlin authorized the use of one of its adjacent facilities for the protesters to use the bathroom, and the use of its copiers to print up more defamatory fliers.

      There is substantial evidence that Oberlin actively aided and abetted the protesters in various ways, as well as encouraged and promoted the false accusations of racism against Gibson’s.

      healthguyfsu in reply to Andy. | May 16, 2019 at 4:25 pm

      When a school promises to do an investigation, doesn’t, and then has a key administrator directing protesters that implies a more malicious intent to the “false promise” of conducting an investigation.

Thobeka? Why would any parent name their kid Thobeka?

I believe this series is one of the most clear and accessible overviews of a trial I have read. The important personalities of the parties, often ignored, has been allowed to come through.

Can anyone doubt the conscious and unconscious arrogance of the school? “Unleash the students”, really? Are they provided torches and pitchforks by the school?

I can almost hear the school officials cackle as they wring their hands in glee.

quaker lady | May 16, 2019 at 9:34 am

I really appreciate the detailed account of the trial. I rarely admit that I am a graduate of Oberlin (late 60″s) and a lawyer, which I do admit to freely. As hard as it is to imagine, Oberlin was saner in the 60’s than it is now. There was some diversity of opinion in those days, conservative voices had not been completely replaced by a progressive mono-culture, nor do I recall that the students were running the college.

PrincetonAl | May 16, 2019 at 9:43 am

This is what LI does best. More in-depth coverage of ignored issues.

– Zimmerman trial
– Warren’s Indian heritage
– Martha Coakley’s pending loss in MA Senate race
– Rasmea Odeh

This stuff is the best stuff – when it digs deep and is better than anywhere else.

Terence G. Gain | May 16, 2019 at 9:45 am

” Hardly anyone wonders how it feels to be forced to defend yourself in your home town against what you see as crazy accusations.”


Not what you see, but what are clearly false accusations.

I am amazed at the testimony of the college administrators. Even today they don’t understand or accept that what they did was wrong. Is Ben Jones still employed there? If so, he should be fired immediately after the trial ends–I have never seen anyone who is so arrogant and so willing to trample on the rights of others in order to push his SJW agenda.

I recall one of the administrators complaining about Gibsons owning “prime real estate” in the town. I bet the root of the protests lay there, with either the university or an administrator looking to buy the location of one of Gibson’s stores.