The Black Lives Matter protest in Iowa City last night was noticeably calmer, just one day after officers arrested a protest leader. Demonstrators marched and chanted throughout downtown Iowa City, but organizers specifically kept the group away from area highways and the interstate.
“One other thing…this is for your safety and we don’t want you guys to be liable to arrest by the police department or the sheriff,” a woman told the crowd, “so we please ask you guys to not spray paint.”
The organizer, who did not give her name, also listed some of the group’s goals.
“A plan to restructure the Iowa City Police Department towards community policing, similarly to what is happening now in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Camden, New Jersey and Los Angeles, California,” she said.
There was no visible law enforcement presence as the group marched, including outside City Hall. On past nights, protesters encountered rows of officers with body armor, shields and helmets. The Des Moines City Council gave first approval last night to an ordinance prohibiting racial profiling by Des Moines Police, but the council held off on final approval. Community groups negotiating with city leaders asked the council to table the ordinance because they only had a few hours to review new changes before yesterday’s meeting. Mayor Frank Cownie said he wants feedback.
“With all of us coming together, we’re going to be able to move forward much more quickly and see some of the benefits to our citizens that so many are crying out for,” Cownie said.
The ordinance bans racial profiling and requires training on implicit bias and de-escalation. Community activists want the city to create a community board to review police misconduct. Betty Andrews of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP said investigations of police misconduct should be handled outside the department.
“We need to do better than the police policing the police,” Andrews said. “We need to make sure that there is something that is separate.”
The Des Moines mayor said the city council will consider changes before giving the ordinance final approval.
(By Iowa Public Radio’s Kate Payne in Iowa City and Grant Gerlock in Des Moines)