Protests heat up after claims of racial profiling at Oberlin bakery

Protests heat up in Oberlin over claims of racial profiling at popular bakery
Published: Nov. 11, 2016 at 8:21 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 11, 2016 at 10:01 PM EST
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OBERLIN, OH (WOIO) - Close to 100 students stood on the sidewalk outside Gibson's Bakery in Oberlin holding "Black Lives Matter" signs on Friday, singing as cars drove by.

Some honked in support.

Protesters were gathering for the second straight day. They say a 19-year-old African-American was profiled after he was arrested, claiming Gibson's Bakery has a history of racially profiling shoppers.

"Multiple students have had accounts of being followed around the store, being accused of stealing, having to turn their pockets out when they weren't stealing anything just because they were black or brown students," said a member of the Black Student Union, who didn't wish to give her name.

Trey James, who works at Gibson's Bakery, said the racial profiling claims aren't not true. He said the store is simply trying to stop shoplifting.

"The (shop lifting) problem was quite extensive, but to say that it was racially motivated was factually inaccurate," said James.

The protest Friday stems from an incident that occurred at the bakery Wednesday. Oberlin police said a man tried shoplifting wine and a fight broke out between him and a Gibson's employee.

The 19-year-old was arraigned Friday in Oberlin Municipal Court on charges of robbery and inflicting or threatening harm.

"It doesn't matter if you're purple, brown, blue, green, you're getting busted and you're going to jail," said James.

Despite the protests, Gibson's Bakery workers said business Friday was fine.

However, the same can't be said for The Cobbler Candle Company next door. The owners opened up their shop three weeks ago. They had to close early Thursday because of the crowds.

"(Thursday) I was open a couple hours. I was forced to close down because of the amount of people outside. There was no way to get to my door. There was a huge crowd of people, so that allowed us to make no sales (Thursday), and a day of zero sales can really have an impact on us," said The Cobbler Candle Company owner Scott LaMoreaux.

Two doors down from Gibson's Bakery, Red Chinese Bistro workers said the protest mildly impacted business Thursday, but Friday the restaurant was full.

Oberlin stores, including Gibson's Bakery, said they support the student's rights to speak up, but they hope no one gets hurt.

"They have the constitutional right to be angry about something and protest, so we're letting them do that," said James.

There was also a smaller group of counter protesters that gathered outside Gibson's Bakery Friday. People who live in Oberlin said they're planning a cash mob at the bakery Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. to support the business.

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