A small business in Oberlin, Ohio, popular with denizens of Oberlin College is facing accusations of racism and protests after three black students were arrested November 2016 for assaulting a white shopkeeper and stealing bottles of wine.
After being labeled as a “racist establishment,” by a senior dean at the college, the family owned business, Gibson’s Bakery, says it has no choice but to sue the college and Meredith Raimondo, vice president and dean of students, for slander, the Associated Press reported.
The dispute happened after the 18-and-19-year-old students tried purchasing alcohol with a fake id. After the shopkeeper denied their purchase, he caught the students attempting to steal wine, leading to the students assaulting the shopkeeper.
Despite the cries of racial profiling from the Oberlin community, the three black students all plead guilty in August to the attempted theft and aggravated trespassing. In a statement required in a plea agreement, they also admitted that their actions were in the wrong and that the store exhibited no racial bias.
Yet that did not stop the outrage-minded members of Oberlin’s community from protesting the bakery and allegedly telling prospective students not to shop there. Days after the arrest, hundreds of students protested outside the bakery, while members of Oberlin’s student senate passed a resolution condemning the bakery and claiming the store had “a history of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment.”
“I can understand why people were looking for some outlet for their frustration, but it’s just counterproductive to bend that anger towards a small family business that to my knowledge is not guilty of the sort of racial profiling that people accuse it of,” said retired Oberlin professor Roger Copeland, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Gibson’s Bakery is seeking more than $200,000 in damages. He is accusing the college of ” libel, slander, interference with business relationships, interference with contracts, deceptive trade practices, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring and trespass,” according to The Chronicle-Telegram.
In response, the college released a statement denying all claims in the lawsuit and saying they “are untrue and we will vigorously defend against them.”
After the incident, Oberlin police conducted an investigation and found “a complete lack of evidence of racism,” the complaint says.
Oberlin College is known for contriving a number of outrages over the years. In 2015, students decried the sushi in the college dining halls as “cultural appropriation.” Actress and writer Lena Dunham graduated Oberlin in 2008.