Cedar Rapids City Council will hold special meeting on Friday to discuss Black Lives Matter priorities

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Cedar Rapids City Hall — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

The Cedar Rapids City Council is holding a special meeting Friday afternoon for a “discussion and resolution of support for a statement supporting Black Lives Matter priorities.”

The meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. and will be held via Zoom due to COVID-19. The public will be able to watch on the city’s Facebook page. The city council has been holding virtual meetings since April.

The grassroots group Advocates for Social Justice has been meeting with city officials to discuss seven demands they want to see the city and the Cedar Rapids Police Department implement. The group has also organized two protests, with a third protest planned for Friday after the council meeting.

Among the demands is forming an independent citizens review board, strengthening use-of-force standards, imposing strict body camera provisions and abolishing qualified immunity for officers.

The seven demands organizers and community members want city and police leaders to respond to. — courtesy of Advocates for Social Justice Facebook page

The organizers want answers from city councilmembers on each of the demands and have set Friday as the deadline. Friday is also Juneteenth — the anniversary of the day in 1865 when the news that slavery had been abolished reached formerly enslaved people in Texas. But Advocates for Social Justice said its work will continue beyond Friday.

“I also think it’s important to have a plan in place going forward past the Juneteenth deadline,” organizer Leslie Neely said last week. “So what it would look like for us to be able to get these policies in place and when they think that we would be able to do that.”

Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman announced last week during a press conference that the city is working to establish an independent citizens review board. While specific details still need to be worked out, Jerman said he hopes that whatever is decided will be presented to the city council and become part of the city code.

Protesters have also asked the Cedar Rapids police to ban chokeholds, knee-to-neck maneuvers and strengthen use-of-force standards. Jerman said the police department’s use of force policy already banned chokeholds and other vascular restraints, but that language has been added to specify that knee-to-neck maneuvers are banned.

On Wednesday, the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission voted in support of the group’s seven demands. The commission encouraged city leaders to continue working with the Advocates for Social Justice “with a sense of urgency to meet these priorities.”

“As we have seen in demonstrations across our country, and in our own community, clear directives have arisen: systemic reform is essential and we must act now,” executive director Stefanie Munsterman-Scriven said in a statement.

Protesters marching down Bever Avenue in Cedar Rapids, June 13, 2020. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

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