Law officers fired tear gas in Iowa City last night to break up a demonstration that had lasted almost six hours, brought more vandalism, and forced the temporary closure of parts of Interstate 80.
At its largest point, about a thousand people took part in the rally for racial justice. As the crowd chanted “Black Lives Matter,” at times disrupting vehicle traffic on major streets, some drivers honked their support. Some protesters spray-painted sidewalks and buildings as they marched. They also encountered law officers stationed outside of civic buildings, wearing body armor and carrying shields and batons.
The chanted: “I don’t see no riot here, take off your riot gear! I don’t see no riot here, take off your riot gear!” During the long march, protesters rallied outside the Johnson County Jail, where inmates watched through the windows. One incarcerated individual could be seen holding up a sign that read, “Black Lives Matter.”
Another thousand protesters demonstrated in Des Moines last night, marching through residential neighborhoods and ending up outside the home of the capital city’s mayor. It was the sixth straight night of protests in Des Moines. After hearing their demands, Mayor Frank Cownie said he feels their pain and said he would support the issues they raised, including passing an anti-racial profiling ordinance for city police. He said it’s only the beginning of their discussions.
Mayor Cownie says, “We’re going to keep exchanging ideas, because the solutions to 400 years of problems aren’t going to happen in one night.” One of the march organizers, Matthew Bruce, said he and others are ready with more issues they want to address. “We have to start to take away lethal force,” Bruce says. “We have to end juvenile detention. Put that money into education and mental health.”
Using a bullhorn, Cownie also said he would talk with Polk County officials about ending the nightly curfew and releasing people arrested during peaceful protests. Standing before a line of officers with plastic masks and shields, he also agreed to urge Governor Kim Reynolds to restore felon voting rights by executive order.
(By Grant Gerlock and Kate Payne, Iowa Public Radio)