Four Arrested In Beavercreek As Protesters Shut Down Walmart
(Updated December 22nd at 10:45am) The Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio, was closed for nearly three hours Saturday afternoon. Multiple police agencies from around the area responded to the store following a massive “die-in” protest.
Walmart managers evacuated customers after more than 75 protesters demanding justice for John Crawford III entered the store. Crawford was shot and killed in August by a Beavercreek police officer who received a 911 call about a man waving a gun; the weapon turned out to be a BB gun Crawford had picked up from a shelf inside the store. In September, a special grand jury failed to indict the officer, Sean Williams, on any criminal charges, and last week Crawford’s family filed suited against Beavercreek, the individual officers and the Walmart corporation asking for damages in his death.
The Reverend Jerome McCorry of Dayton helped organize the die-in.
"We are here to make a very serious statement,” he said. “We stand together black and white, we stand together male and female. We stand together as a cross section of this community who just simply want to send a message that black lives do matter. Justice was not done in the case of John Crawford III...These kinds of actions will happen continuously until justice is done.”
Beavercreek Police had no comment, and Walmart management says people were evacuated for safety and security reasons.
Four people were arrested in connection with the protest including Sandy King, Elias Kelley, Benjamin Virnston and Matthew Raska, but there were no reports of violence. At one point Beavercreek Police approached Kelley, who was holding megaphone and arrested him while he was giving a speech; he yelled out “indict the system” as he was taken into a police car. Afterwards, Sandy King of Yellow Springs followed the officers, asking them repeatedly why a young black man was being singled out for arrest. An officer appeared to back his police vehicle into King before she, too, was cuffed and arrested as protesters surrounded the officers demanding an explanation. This series of events was caught on video.
King, Kelley, Virnston and Raska have all been charged with misdemeanor trespass and obstructing official business according to attorney Ellis Jacobs who is representing them. King was also charged with resisting arrest, a misdemeanor. All have been released on bond and are expected to appear in court Dec. 26.
Organizers of the protest say they intended to disrupt the shopping season, and will continue to cause such disruptions until Beavercreek Police are held accountable for John Crawford’s death.
“I think that it is important especially during this Christmas season, that we do matter, that we do count and there's no better way than to show it than in folks' pocketbooks,” said McCorry. “We knew that victory was already ours today when Walmart had to shut the store down. We're going to see this on a continuous basis, we're going to do it until justice begins to show itself in this community and we're concerned that justice has not been done."
One woman from Dayton, who didn’t want to give her name, came to Walmart unaware of the planned protest. She said she was glad to have stumbled upon the rally.
"Well, I was just shopping, you know, minding my own business and I just seen a group of people come in and they were unified and they were peaceful,” she said. “I think it was wonderful that everybody is standing together, standing up for something that matters, a cause, or life. Lives that are being discredited for much of nothing."
She said she was surprised that Walmart asked the protestors to evacuate the store.
"They absolutely told us that we had to leave and they didn't want us recording anything. There was no reason for them to react in that mannerism because no one was acting out of character," she explained. "I think that it's a wonderful thing because someone lied and someone died and it's good that people are coming together for that. There needs to be justice."
But another shopper, who also declined to give her name, was incensed by the protest.
"Well, where were they when the black kid shot the white kid. Where were they? They have equal rights as us, white people, okay," she said. "There's been multiple black guys that shot white kids. You don't see us white people standing there saying, 'hey, where's our rights?' You don't see that. We hardworking people work Monday through Friday, so we come out on Saturday now they close down the store for this? Go somewhere else."
The demonstrators dispersed from the Walmart parking lot after police ordered them to do so. Members of the ad hoc organizing group, Justice for John Crawford, say all of the arrested four protesters were released on bond with the help of Missourians Organizing For Reform and Empowerment, who are funneling donations through their bond fund.