On Friday night, the Iowa City-area racial justice group known as the Iowa Freedom Riders held the first of four consecutive nights of scheduled protests.
“We’re going to be marching for Jacob today,” one of the group’s organizers told the crowd as the group kicked off the protest at the University of Iowa’s Pentacrest at about 7:30 p.m.
Since the group formed earlier this summer to protest police brutality, the Iowa Freedom Riders have chanted the names of Black people shot or killed by police. The organizer Friday was referring to Jacob Blake, who was shot in the back by an officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday. He is recovering but paralyzed.
In the United States, Black people are killed by police at a disproportionate rate compared to white people, according to data collected by The Washington Post.
In their calls for defunding the Iowa City Police Department because of the country’s systemic racism, the group also created a larger list of demands. After working with the Iowa City council, a 17-point resolution was adopted in June that includes items like restructuring the Iowa City’s police department.
Protestors gather in front of the Johnson County Sheriff building during a protest for racial justice in Iowa City on Friday, August 28, 2020 . (Photo: Nick Rohlman for the Press Citizen)
Now, more than two months later, the Iowa Freedom Riders say not enough has been done to tackle their list of demands. They decided to hold four nights of protests to demand more action from the Iowa City council ahead of their regular meeting Tuesday. They’ve also demanded the city council release video of law enforcement using tear gas on protesters June 3 in Iowa City.
After starting with the rally, they marched through downtown. At the intersection of East College and Gilbert streets, a car tried to drive through the crowd and reversed, hitting multiple people without seriously injuring anyone, organizer Raneem Hamad told the Press-Citizen.
During an Aug. 21 protest, a car drove through the crowd, injuring at least one person, according to the Iowa City Police Department and protest organizers. Police charged the driver with willful injury and intimidation with a dangerous weapon.
On Friday, an Iowa City Police officer on a bicycle told the Press-Citizen that he saw the car leaving and heard what sounded like hands slapping the car. He said a call was made about the incident and the car was located. A public information officer wasn’t immediately available for comment.
The group continued its march, making its way to the Johnson County Jail before returning to the Pentacrest, where several protesters spraypainted the Old Capitol, prompting six University of Iowa Police officers to approach them and stop them.
A protestor blows bubbles in front of police on the steps of the Old Capitol during a protest for racial justice in Iowa City on Friday, August 28, 2020 . (Photo: Nick Rohlman for the Press Citizen)
The officers stood on the steps of the Old Capitol as the protesters continued to chant.
Hamad told the crowd the Iowa Freedom Riders would continue to demand the Iowa City council make progress on their demands, and that Saturday night’s protests would be dedicated to a vigil for Makeda Scott and continuing calls for a thorough investigation into her death.
Scott was a recent University of Iowa graduate who studied gender, women’s and sexuality studies. On June 7, Scott was at Lake Macbride when the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office says she went into the water and didn’t resurface. Her body was recovered the next day.
Following an autopsy, the Johnson County Medical Examiner ruled her death an accidental drowning. The sheriff’s office is still investigating and has not released additional information about what happened.
Hillary Ojeda covers breaking news and public safety for the Press-Citizen. Reach her at 319-339-7345, [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @hillarymojeda.
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