Protesters disrupt carbon capture conference in Des Moines, face close call with SUV

Canvas sign at Buffalo Rebellion protest in Des Moines, Nov. 9, 2022. — Lily DeTaeye/Little Village

About 100 people marched from Cowles Commons through the streets of Des Moines to the Iowa Events Center on Wednesday to protest the National Carbon Capture Conference and Expo. The expo featured speakers from Summit Carbon Solutions, Wolf Carbon Solutions, and Navigator CO2: the three companies who have submitted proposals and/or applied for permits to build a carbon capture pipeline that would run through Iowa and surrounding states.

The protest was organized by Buffalo Rebellion, a climate action group made up of Great Plains Action Society, DSM Black Liberation Movement, Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, Sierra Club Beyond Coal, Sunrise Movement Cedar Rapids, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI).

The groups organized the event to “denounce CO2 pipelines as a false climate solution,” according to a news release issued by Buffalo Rebellion.

Jalesha Johnson addresses protesters in Des Moines. — Lily DeTaeye/Little Village

Just a day before the protest, members of Iowa CCI and DSM Black Liberation Movement interrupted the conference with concerns over the proposed pipeline.

Videos posted on Twitter show community activist Jaylen Cavil, an organizer with DSM Black Liberation Movement, being pushed out of a conference room as he loudly described a 2020 carbon pipeline leak that hospitalized 49 people in Mississippi.

The protest began at 1 p.m. on Wednesday at Cowles Commons, where protesters carrying signs gathered to listen to speeches from members of Buffalo Rebellion.

“We’re not fighting just for Iowa, but for all of the Great Plains,” Great Plains Action Society Executive Director Sikowis Nobiss said at the event.

Protesters march in downtown Des Moines. -Lily DeTaeye/Little Village

After the speeches, the crowd marched to the Iowa Events Center. While stopped in the intersection of Center and Third streets, protesters had to avoid an SUV driver who had driven onto the sidewalk in an attempt to bypass the marchers in the street. Shortly after, a person using a pressure washer and wearing a green Operation Downtown shirt pointed the pressure washer at the marchers, shooting a jet of water over their head. A Des Moines police officer watched the incident, but did nothing in response.

When marchers reached the Iowa Events Center, there were more speeches, some conference attendees watching through the glass of the center’s Hy-Vee Hall.

The protest wrapped up around 3 p.m. as protesters, shoulder to shoulder, marched back to Cowles Commons.

Protesters in downtown Des Moines. — Lily DeTaeye/Little Village
Protester with Buffalo Rebellion sign. — Lily DeTaeye/Little Village
Protesters in front of Hy-Vee Hall. — Lily DeTaeye/Little Village