Gibson's bakery near the campus of Oberlin College in Ohio is suing the school, claiming students — and faculty — have unfairly branded the cafe racist and accused it of discrimination, and it's ruining business.
In November of last year, three Oberlin students — all minorities — were arrested after trying to shoplift from the bakery's wine selection, and then "punching and kicking the white shopkeeper," Allyn Gibson, according to an Associated Press report. Two of the students claimed that they were "racially profiled" by the shop owner, and that they'd simply come in to buy wine, albeit using a fake ID, when Gibson accused them of stealing.
Not long afterward, the three students pleaded guilty to "attempted theft and aggravated trespassing" and pledged, as a condition of their plea agreement, to take back their claims that the store was racist for calling the police.
But by the time the students admitted that they probably weren't profiled, the damage had already been done in the Oberlin community, according to a legal complaint filed by Gibson late last month. Students have staged a number of protests outside the bakery, and the Oberlin student senate passed a resolution claiming Gibson has “a history of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment.”
Students asked by the Associated Press to provide evidence of Gibsons's supposed racism weren't able to, telling the paper, instead, that "Racism can’t always be proven on an Excel sheet."
The lack of proof hasn't stopped students from reportedly boycotting the cafe, and, Gibson claims student advisers and campus tour guides tell prospective students that Gibson's is racist. Gibson even alleges that the school administration has participated in the protests, and that, after finding out students had stolen from the bakery, pushed the bakery's owners to drop the criminal charges and let Oberlin handle the incident instead of law enforcement.
The situation has had a dramatic financial impact on the cafe.
“I have not taken a paycheck since this happened more than a year ago,” Gibson said in an email. “Sometimes you have to stand up to a large institution. Powerful institutions — including Oberlin College — and their members must follow the same laws as the rest of us.”
The lawsuit is expected to enter the initial phase of litigation in January.