Akron pastors call for justice after Jayland Walker grand jury decision
Local pastors and church members gathered in downtown Akron Tuesday night to hold a prayer vigil for Jayland Walker. The gathering comes after a grand jury decided not to indict the eight Akron police officers responsible for the shooting death of Walker last summer.
“We going to stand here. We going to lock up," Love Akron Executive Director Kemp Boyd said, directing a group of 20 people in downtown Akron to stand together in a circle and lock arms. "We going to just pray man. Amen."
The group prayed in the city's designated protest zone following the grand jury's decision.
Pastor James Talbert with the church Citizens Akron offered a prayer for the community.
“Jesus, we pray that the walls that the unjust systems will fall down in your name Jesus," Talbert said.
Talbert added that he's praying for the community to continue to push for justice.
"Jesus we pray that you give us the strength and endurance to engage in long-term system dismantling work and that we would not grow weary in well doing and that whether we see due season or not, we will continue to plant and water the garden of our city," Talbert prayed.
The group then split up to pray over different buildings located downtown.
"We pray over these three buildings. These three buildings are important," Boyd instructed. "This is our city hall. City council meets here. This over here is our judicial building. Over there is where our police department abides, so each one of these buildings represents a body. And we know that our bodies get sick."
The community would still be hurting even if the grand jury chose to indict the officers, Pastor Peter Wiley withFirst Congregational Church in Hudson said.
“It’s painful no matter what happens. There is no good answer, and I’m just profoundly pained for the family," Wiley said. "And what happened is not okay, but it’s also I’m pained for the people involved and the hurt that they feel.”
Local faith leaders will keep praying and facilitating conversations as Akron continues to process the loss of Walker and the grand jury’s decision, Boyd said.
"Certainly my faith tells me that that's what we need to be about is finding ways so that there's less chance of hurt and pain and killing and that there's justice and not groups of people that are left out," Wiley said.
Gary Wyatt with North Hill Community House said it's important for the faith community to continue to show support for the city together.
"I thank you Lord, we've got Black, white, red, brown, yellow - we've got all of us together in love and unity Father," Wyatt said.
Wyatt still has faith justice will come from an internal investigation from the Akron Police Department.
"I think that those investigations will cause them to rethink their polices," Wyatt said. "You've got policies that've been there for 100 years. We're in 2023 now."
Other local churches are planning their own prayer vigils this week, and Love Akron will host another vigil next Tuesday at 6:00 pm, Boyd said.