A local Oberlin, Ohio bakery has filed a lawsuit against Oberlin College for slander, alleging it encouraged protests against the establishment with an administrator even screaming on a bullhorn that the bakery is “racist” with a “long account” of discrimination.
The 100-year-old Gibson’s Bakery’s suit against the school and Oberlin Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo is about “standing up for his right to crack down on shoplifting without being branded as racist,” says shop owner Dave Gibson.
According to The Philadelphia Tribune, the whole imbroglio began a little over a year ago, on the day after Donald Trump’s election as president.
Three black Oberlin students were caught trying to steal wine at the bakery, and allegedly assaulted shopkeeper Allyn Gibson when he tried to stop them. The students claimed they were racially profiled and had only attempted to purchase the wine with fake IDs.
Days after the students’ arrests, hundreds of their Oberlin peers protested outside of Gibson’s, and the Oberlin Student Senate passed a resolution proclaiming the bakery had “a history of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment.”
Despite the trio pleading guilty to attempted theft and aggravated trespassing, and stating in a plea agreement that Gibson’s is not racist, Oberlin students have continued to boycott the store.
Pressed by a reporter to provide evidence or examples of [racial] profiling, [students] said only that when Black students enter the store, they feel as though they’re being watched.
“Racism can’t always be proven on an Excel sheet,” said Kameron Dunbar, an Oberlin junior and vice chair of the student senate.
[Retired Oberlin professor Roger] Copeland and other residents say the accusations of racism are unfounded.
“I’ve never seen evidence; it’s always hearsay,” Copeland said. “When your fellow student is shutting down a conversation because he or she is made uncomfortable, it leads to a hive mentality.”
On Nov. 7, the Gibsons sued Oberlin and Meredith Raimondo, vice president and dean of students, for slander, accusing faculty members of encouraging demonstrations against the bakery by suspending classes, distributing flyers, and supplying protesters with free food and drink.
It says Raimondo took part in the demonstration against Gibson’s with a bullhorn and distributed a flyer that said the bakery is a “RACIST establishment with a LONG ACCOUNT of RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION.”
Today, the lawsuit says, college tour guides continue to inform prospective students that Gibson’s is racist.
Dave Gibson, the bakery’s owner, says the lawsuit is about standing up for his right to crack down on shoplifting without being branded as a racist. The suit says Oberlin demanded that he stop pushing criminal charges on first-time shoplifters and call school deans instead.
Gibson says he hasn’t taken a paycheck since the incident, noting “sometimes you have to stand up to a large institution.”
In a statement, Oberlin College said it “reject[s] all claims asserted in the lawsuit” and “will vigorously defend against them.”
“The College values its long relationship with the town of Oberlin and its businesses, including Gibson’s Bakery,” it continued.
“We are saddened that the Gibson family has chosen to pursue litigation. As this is now a legal matter, the College will suspend, effective immediately, its business relationships with Gibson’s Bakery until such time as a mutually productive relationship may be re-established.”
IMAGE: Max Sparber/Flickr