“Understand the largeness of this moment,” Stacey Walker told the people gathered in Greene Square Park on Saturday, June 6. “These will be the pictures our kids see in the history books. We know in our hearts, in our souls, that this is a moral moment for the world.”
More than 2,000 people had come to the Cedar Rapids park for a protest against racism and police violence and to call for action on the systematic problems that make both lethal. It was one of dozens of protests in the Cedars Rapids/Iowa City area sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers on May 25.
The protests have varied. Some were carefully organized by long-time activists, and featured speeches from political leaders like Walker, chair of the Linn County Board of Supervisors. Others were the work of people new to politics and organizing. But the messages delivered at all of them have echoed each other.
Demonstrations have been almost entirely peaceful. Though organizers do not endorse vandalism, downtown Iowa City walls, streets and signs have been tagged with messages of outrage. The most notable moment of violence happened on June 3, when a state trooper ordered flash-bang grenades and tear gas used against protesters in Iowa City trying to march to I-80.
“Protesting is not a box to check off to say that you have done something to make changes,” Taylor Scudder told hundreds of people rallying on the Ped Mall in Iowa City, a few hours before Walker spoke in Cedar Rapids. “It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough.”
She called for “hard conversations with children and adults about race and gender and sexuality.”
Scudder, a teacher, said she was nervous about speaking, but had to “because my black life matters, my family’s black lives matter, my students’ black lives matter.”
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 283.