AKRON, Ohio – Hundreds mourned the loss of Jayland Walker, a Black man shot about 60 times by police, Wednesday during a funeral service in Akron, Ohio, which declared a citywide day of mourning after days of protests over his death.
Hundreds of people, including many of Walker’s relatives, passed his open casket during a viewing Wednesday morning at the Akron Civic Theatre, while people driving by outside honked their car horns in sympathy.
People began claiming their seats for the afternoon funeral service at the Akron Civic Theatre more than 90 minutes before it was scheduled to begin. A steady line of people waited to pass through security checks before entering the large, ornate theater. Those who drove by the area honked their car horns in sympathy for the 25-year-old who died June 27 after a police chase.
A few attendees wore shirts that read “Black Lives Matter” or “Zero Threat, Zero Violence, Justice for Jayland.”
People leaving the visitation Wednesday morning told the Akron Beacon Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, the mood inside was somber and quiet. They described Walker’s body as being prepared for viewing but said some evidence of his wounds remained.
More on Walker’s death:Akron police release ‘heartbreaking’ footage of Jayland Walker being shot up to 60 times
The family’s decision to show Walker’s body during funeral services reminded some of the choice by Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, in 1955 that helped galvanize the national Civil Rights Movement.
“Mamie Till-Mobley opened a casket and opened our eyes. She made sure we could never look away again. This was the first Black Lives Matter moment, inspiring a mass movement, and that is why people point to this courageous act as an example today of what we can do to activate people,” Christopher D’Angelo Benson, president of the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley Institute, told USA TODAY.
He said there was nothing “more impacting” for others than “actually seeing evidence of racial atrocity.”
Police body cameras captured Akron police shooting Walker about 60 times following a chase on June 27. The city blurred images of Walker’s body when releasing the footage during a press conference July 3.
He wasn’t armed when he was shot, but authorities said Walker had fired a shot from his car 40 seconds into the chase. Police body camera footage released by the city shows Walker wearing a ski mask, jumping out the front passenger door of his still-moving car and then running into a parking lot.
POLICE PROTOCOL:Police will not change traffic stop, encrypted radio policies after Jayland Walker’s death
BODYCAM VIDEOS:Seven seconds of shooting: What 14 police bodycam videos show in Jayland Walker’s death
Who was Emmett Till?
Till, who was also Black, was 14 when he left his Chicago home to visit family in Mississippi in 1955. There, after being accused of offending a white woman in a grocery store, he was kidnapped, tortured and lynched.
His body was found two days later in a river so damaged that he could only be identified by his initials carved into a ring that was on one of his fingers.
Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobely, insisted on an open casket so the world could see what happened to her son.
Thousands came to see Till in his open casket.
But millions more saw Till’s body after photographs, first published in “Jet” magazine, showed Till’s savaged body.
The two white men charged with lynching Till were acquitted by an all-white jury. They later confessed to the killing.
Till’s death and his mother’s invitation to the world to see what happened to her son became a pivotal moment in American history and the country’s ongoing reckoning with race.
In March, a more than century-long effort to pass anti-lynching legislation culminated after President Joe Biden signed a landmark bill into law that makes lynching a federal hate crime.
Contributing: Associated Press; Orlando Mayorquin, USA TODAY.
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