Open letter to the Cedar Rapids City Council: Support the seven social justice demands

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Protesters on First Avenue in Cedar Rapids, June 6, 2020. — Jason Smith/Little Village

By Chad Cooper, Cedar Rapids

In the aftermath of the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, we’ve seen back-to-back weekends of protests in Cedar Rapids, numbering up to 2,000+ people. These protests have united individuals across the city around a common goal to bring about monumental change. The group that organized the protests — Advocates for Social Justice — has developed seven demands that aim to bring about police reform and strike at the heart of racial inequality:

  1. Form an independent citizen’s review board
  2. Make significant investments in diversity, equity, and inclusion
  3. Ban chokeholds, knee-to-neck maneuvers, and strengthen use-of-force standards
  4. Decriminalize minor marijuana crimes and other low-level offenses
  5. Impose strict body camera provisions
  6. Make negotiations between law enforcement and municipal representatives public
  7. Abolish qualified immunity

These are demands — urgent calls to action for the safety of our community members — and should be treated as such. They’re reasonable, past due and have the potential to be transformative. Yet as of this writing, only two city council members (Ashley Vanorny and Patrick Loeffler) have pledged their support for all seven demands.

When human rights are at stake, moderation is not acceptable. Injustice must not be met with compromise, but with decisive action. Political gamesmanship has no place here. Apathy is the ultimate enemy of justice. This time, more than ever, is the time to stand up, speak out and demand change. The lives of our fellow citizens depend on it.

I hope that each of the city council members will look inside themselves, look out at the people they represent and see this as an opportunity to stand on the right side of history. The creators of Advocates for Social Justice have organized and galvanized our community. They needed citizens to act and show up, and they have. Now, we need you, Brad Hart, Tyler Olson, Ann Poe, Marty Hoegger, Scott Overland, Dale Todd and Scott Olson, to stand with all of us as citizens and pledge your support for all of the seven policy demands. We need it so that names like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Eric Garner are not just a fashion, but a force.

Over the course of the past few weeks, people around the country, including in Cedar Rapids, have proven that this is not just a series of marches or performative acts. This is a movement. I hope that our city’s representatives will join that movement toward progress, and the first step is to support the call for change.

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