Black lives focus of UI Pentacrest protest against police brutality

Upwards of 100 people gathered on the University of Iowa Pentacrest in Iowa City, Iowa for a peaceful protest against police brutality -- photo by Cassandra Santiago
Upwards of 100 people gathered on the University of Iowa Pentacrest in Iowa City, Iowa for a peaceful protest against police brutality — photo by Cassandra Santiago

Set against the background of recent violent police scenarios across the nation, protestors — of various races and ethnicities — united forces in a peaceful protest against police brutality Thursday evening. Over 100 people claimed a spot on the University of Iowa Pentacrest in downtown Iowa City to show solidarity for the Black lives injured or killed at the hands of officers nationwide.

Protestors began filling the area a little before the start time of 5 p.m. Lively chatter echoed while people settled into a spot in the last of the sticky, afternoon heat — some holding homemade signs, others passing signs out to fellow protestors. Organizers Abigail Thomas and Brad Pector stood within the crowd engaging attendees while organizer Nailah Roberts opened the protest by reading a list of black people injured or killed by police officers — including last week’s fatal shooting of 37-year-old Alton Sterling and 32-year-old Philando Castile.

Roberts, citing the Huffington Post, informed the quiet crowd that Castile’s death marks the 136th known black person to be killed by police in 2016.

Silent tears streamed down the faces of several protestors as Roberts struggled through sobs and read the names and biographies of those injured or killed.

After the list reading, Roberts opened the megaphone to any black and brown people who wanted to publicly air thoughts of frustrations, rage, personal experiences and hopes.

Nineteen-year-old organizer Taylor Davis quickly set the tone with an original poem followed by more poetry, chanting, singing and both prepared and spur-of-the-moment statements from other protestors.

Twenty-two-year-old Quay Campbell of Iowa City gripped the audience when he aired his fear of never returning home to his young son and daughter.

“Everyday I leave, I wonder if I’m going to come back,” Campbell yelled into the megaphone.

Many of the speeches challenged the audience to think of the Black Lives Matter movement in every aspect of life — including education, housing, employment and incarceration — and not only when another black life is lost to police brutality.

The protest lasted about an hour and a half — ending with the chant “Hey hey, hey ho, these killer cops have got to go,” that intensified the surrounding atmosphere.

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