The city of Coralville announced a curfew on Monday afternoon, in response to a confrontation between the police and a crowd of approximately 150 near Coral Ridge Mall on Sunday night, as well as other acts of vandalism and theft that occurred.
According to the Coralville Police Chief Shane Kron the persons involved in the confrontation with the police were not part of any planned demonstration.
Protests over the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer have resulted in violence between police and protesters in some Iowa cities, most notably Des Moines, where for three nights some protesters have thrown rocks and bottles at the police and the police have responded by firing teargas and rubber bullets at protesters.
Approximately two dozen police vehicles from Coralville and neighboring cities responded to reports of an unruly crowd near the Coral Ridge Mall on Sunday night. The police used two flash-bang grenades to disperse the crowd. KCRG reported, “A few officers were injured after protesters threw rocks or punched them.”
The last of the crowd left around 2 a.m.
Nothing was stolen from the mall, but some nearby small businesses were vandalized. And at approximately 10 p.m., Coralville police responded to reports of broken windows and intruders at the Walmart north of the mall.
Officers found people inside the store, taking items.
“We made a few arrests, but lots of people ran,” Kron said.
“We at the City of Coralville recognize and support the rights of citizens to demonstrate and protest, and stand with those peacefully doing so in sadness and anger over the death of George Floyd,” Coralville Mayor John Lundell said in a written statement on Monday. “We also recognize that vandalism and violence are damaging to our community, as they are to other cities across the country. To protect our citizens, businesses, and public safety personnel, we will impose and enforce this curfew until further notice.”
Curfew begins at 8 p.m. and lasts until 6 a.m.
“Pedestrian and vehicle movement, standing, and parking are prohibited during those hours unless traveling to and from work and home, or providing emergency response calls,” the city said.
Gov. Kim Reynolds expressed support for cities imposing curfews during a press conference on the steps of the State Capitol Building on Monday afternoon. Reynolds called the press conference, which also featured Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, where the Polk County Board of Supervisors has imposed a 9 p.m. curfew, as well as state Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad and Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP.
Reynolds said the curfews in Polk County, as well as ones announced in Scott County and Council Bluffs — Coralville’s had not been announced prior to the press conference — were necessary “to control the violence and the looting that we heard was about to take place across this state.”
“I appreciate the actions taken by local leaders in Polk County, Scott County and Council Bluffs in declaring a curfew to help deescalate potential violence,” the governor said. “Last night in Scott County, a Davenport police officer was shot and injured while on duty, and this violence is unacceptable. Our thoughts and prayers are with this officer, his family and the people of Davenport, as they experience these horrible tragedies.”
Two people were killed in shootings during the violence in Davenport. Reynolds did not mention them during the press conference.
The governor said she was ready to deploy the National Guard, if the need arises.
“Under my order, they stand ready to assist and support when, and if, that time occurs,” she said.
Reynolds laid the blame for the violence over the weekend on people she called “distractors.”
“There are distractors that are here to really cause chaos, and take advantage of a horrific situation,” she said. The governor had begun the press conference by calling the death of George Floyd an “unsettling and criminal act of violence.”
Reynolds said the majority of people participating in protests throughout Iowa “are peaceful protesters that have a powerful message and we’re trying to do everything we can to give them the opportunity to be heard. But when you have distractors, individuals — a small number — come in, they can really cause some chaos and incite horrific things happening as well.”
The governor said she has been closely consulting with Des Moines and Polk County officials throughout the weekend, and has set up a focus group of law enforcement personnel, elected officials and community leaders to address the concerns of protesters and work on necessary reforms.
Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, a Des Moines Democrat and one of the five people of color in the state legislature, talked about the pain many protesters are feeling. He recounted a protester telling him about the frustration and anger he was dealing with because nothing seemed to change after protests in previous years. Abdul-Samad said the man asked him how old he was.
“I told him I’m 68,” Abdul-Samad replied. “He said, ‘I’m under 30. Why are we going through what you were fighting for all this time, we’re going through the same thing?’”
“And tears began to well up in my eyes, because his pain came through.”
“My answer to him was ‘it’s a process,’” Abdul-Samad said. “But this gives us an opportunity to look at everything that has been compounded to this point. To now, look for systemic change, to look for systemic solutions and to develop a process. And now is the time for you to come to the table.”
Betty Andrews stressed that the process must produce result.
“We are at a specific moment in time right now,” she said. “COVID-19 has taken back the covers off of many disparities that we have seen in the African-American community. In many communities of color, COVID-19 has revealed the challenges, and put the spotlight on those challenges. But that’s not the only pandemic that we are dealing with.”
“We are dealing with a legacy of oppression, a proverbial knee that America has on the neck of the African-American community. And we understand that there is pain, there is hurt, there is frustration. I’m there, I’m black and I share that pain and frustration. And we also acknowledge, as have all of our officials, that this is a perfect time to protest and to raise awareness around these issues. We don’t want George Floyd to die in vain.”
Andrews said it was also time “to go from protest and bring alongside with that policy.”
Responding to a reporter’s question, she gave an example of the sort of reform needed to address that legacy of oppression.
“I wanted to acknowledge that the NAACP for several years has been working on anti-racial profiling legislation at the state house,” she said. Andrews said the NAACP and other groups were also in negotiation with the city of Des Moines to pass a local ordinance on racial profiling.
Reynolds was asked if the protests and violence over the weekend would serve as a catalyst to get reforms enacted by the state legislature, whose Republican leaders have not moved forward on legislation addressing racial disparities.
The governor, who said she’s in favor of “systemic change,” said she thinks that change can be accomplished, but the process is only beginning.
“You know, we established the focus group, we’ve been working hard to start to address some of the injustices,” Reynolds said. “My God, we are just getting started.”
The anti-racial profiling bill Andrews cited has been introduced in the Iowa legislature every session starting in 2015. It has never advanced to a floor vote. Reynolds was either lieutenant governor or governor every time the bill was before the legislature. She never made any public statements in support of it.