The crowd gathered on the Pentacrest for Monday’s night protest against racism and police violence was noticeably smaller than the crowds at last week’s protests, but still numbered in the hundreds.
An organizer from the Iowa Freedom Riders told the crowd at the beginning of the protest that her group appreciated the continued commitment of the people who were showing up to rally and march. There would, however, be changes from the marches held last week, another IFR member explained.
“We will be marching through downtown Iowa City, we will not be marching to the intestate today,” she said. “Just want to make that clear to everyone.”
The organizer then offered some advice she said was meant to help keep protesters safe and prevent them being arrested.
“We please ask you guys to not spray-paint,” she said. “And if you do spray-paint — if you choose to make that decision, it’s your personal decision — please make sure that you’re covering yourself and that you’re protected.”
There were a few instances of tagging during the march, but many of the protesters put stickers with written messages on surfaces instead.
The march through downtown Iowa City didn’t stop at some of the locations previous marches have. Clinton Street was blocked, so the crowd couldn’t reach the Johnson County Courthouse, where protesters and law enforcement officers have had stand-offs. Washington Street in front of City Hall was also sealed off with concrete barricades. Protesters marched to the Van Buren Street side of City Hall instead.
At City Hall, IFR member Tina Deng criticized city leaders, saying they didn’t understand what is really going on in the community and have only been showing up at protest events for photo ops.
“All they want to do is show up and smile for the picture,” she told the crowd.
Amal Hassan, the mother of IFR leader Mazin Mohamedali, also addressed the protesters gathered at city hall.
Mohamedali was arrested by Iowa City police officers on Sunday on charges related to the protest march he helped lead on June 3, which ended when law enforcement officers under the command of an Iowa State Patrol officer ordered flash-bang grenades and tear gas to be used to disperse the hundreds of protesters marching towards I-80 on Dubuque Street.
Mohamedali has been charged with unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct–obstructing a public way, as well as violating the terms of his probation. On Monday, a judge said Mohamedali could have been released on his own recognizance for the first two charges, both of which are simple misdemeanors, but because the Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC) petitioned the court to keep him in custody for the alleged probation violation, she could not grant him bail.
The IFR leader is on probation as part of a 2018 plea deal, in which he pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree robbery. According to court records, this is the second time Mohamedali has been charged with violating the terms of his probation. In December 2019, he was charged with contempt of court, which was a violation. He was also arrested in January for possession of a controlled substance, after police discovered he was in possession of marijuana. That case remains open.
In its petition, IDOC told the judge it is seeking to have Mohamedali’s probation revoked. He is currently being held in Marshall County Jail, and will be transferred to Hope House in Coralville, when space becomes available at that residential confinement center.
Hassan told the crowd her son had been unjustly arrested and that as soon as he was free, he would rejoin the protesters. She encouraged everyone to keep working for change.
“We have to let everybody hear our voice,” she said.
After the speakers finished, the march turned and headed back to the Pentacrest, stopping for about 20 minutes at the intersection of Burlington and Gilbert for more speeches.
Monday night’s march was much shorter than the marches last week. Protesters were back at the Pentacrest in slightly less than 90 minutes. After a brief interruption — when a shirtless white man wearing American flag shorts tried to force organizers to allow him to address the crowd — protesters sat down and listened to people tell stories about their encounters with the police.
There was almost no police presence visible on Monday night. But organizers said more than once they believed they have been under police surveillance since the protests began last week. Some members of the crowd said they felt they were as well.
Before the march began, a member of the IFR read out an updated version of the demands the group released on Saturday.
The original list of 13 demands used three headings: Iowa City Police Department, School Board and Housing. The updated list uses the following categories: Demands to the Iowa City Council and Iowa City Police Department, Demands to the Iowa City School Board and Demands to Governor Kim Reynolds.
Aside from the addition of the last category, there were few changes to the demands.
The IFR is demanding a “Strong statement from the ICPD in favor of protests including deprioritization of law and order; and property damage. Instead a prioritization of police accountability for racism while also addressing issues of systematic racism and inequality.” They also want a full published accounting of the ICPD’s budget.
The protest leaders are now demanding new city regulations: “Every institution and business must have must not only have but is also required to implement an equity tool kit.”
They also want at least 30 percent of the staff of every city agency to be “dedicated to diversity and inclusion.”
Demands for an “actively anti-racist curriculum” and the “hiring of a diverse staff to do the work” were added to the section on schools.
The new section aimed at Gov. Reynolds contained three demands.
• Decriminalize the use and possession of marijuana 40 grams and under
• Reduction of probation lengths for ex-convicts, and no drug testing via marijuana [sic]
• The curfew must be lifted in Coralville
Speaking after the march returned to the Pentacrest on Monday, organizers encouraged everyone to share their newly revised demands with Reynolds via social media.
“I want Kim Reynolds’ feed to just be filled with our demands,” Deng said.