Des Moines, Police and Protest

I hadn’t known much about police and protests in Iowa before becoming engaged with Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA), which is closely connected to the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement (DesMoinesBLM).

The trial right now of former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, has brought national and international attention to how dangerous policing is to so many people and communities.

Chauvin’s public killing of George Floyd sparked sustained protests nationwide, including here in Iowa. Arrests were made at peaceful protests in Iowa City and Des Moines, at least. Des Moines Mutual Aid supports a bail fund for those arrested for protesting. Every activist arrested was bailed out. At the end of this post is information regarding how to support the bail fund and other mutual aid projects.

Last fall DesMoinesBLM declared a Black state of emergency in Iowa.
Black State of Emergency in Iowa #BlackEmergencyIA

Yesterday one person was arrested during a peaceful rally at the Iowa Capitol.

State troopers arrested an 18-year-old activist at the Iowa Capitol Thursday as a group rallied against proposed legislation that would increase qualified immunity for law enforcement officers and heighten penalties for some protest-related offenses.

Activists on Thursday rallied against a handful of proposals this year to raise penalties for crimes like rioting and unlawful assembly while increasing protections for police officers and raising the level of immunity they have against lawsuits. Protesters also gathered in opposition of legislation that would prevent the inclusion of “divisive concepts” in diversity training used by state and local governments, including schools and colleges.

Co-organizer Harold Walehwa said the Iowa bills don’t make sense after last summer’s protests and the push for racial justice in the aftermath of the death of Floyd.

“We’re at literally in the middle of the Derek Chauvin trial, but we’re trying to pass bills to (increase) qualified immunity?” he said.

Walehwa referred to Senate File 476 a bill that would enhance “qualified immunity” protections for police officers who face lawsuits accusing them of violating someone’s rights. The bill has passed the Senate and now sits in the House.

One arrested at Iowa Capitol as group rallies against bills increasing protest-related penalties by Ian Richardson and Andrea May Sahouri
Des Moines Register, April 8, 2021

We will not be intimidated by law enforcement or those seeking to destroy our movement. We will continue to uplift, support and fight for the liberation of ALL Black people.

Des Moines Black Liberation Movement | Facebook

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Here are some blog posts related to Quakers and the abolition of police and prisons.
abolition | Search Results | Quakers, social justice and revolution (

Following is a message and letter from my friend and fellow Quaker, Peter Clay, shared with his permission.

Please consider joining me to raise your voices in support of the Racial Profiling Ordinance passed last June. While it was a good start there are real reasons to doubt that our leaders are truly committed to both implementing it and strengthening it. 

Many in our community have become alarmed that police officers with a history of violence have been chosen to lead the ordinance-mandated de-escalation training. After speaking at this past Monday’s City Council meeting I decided to write to Mayor Frank Cownie and City Manager Scott Sanders. The forty-five speakers, all on this topic, were only allowed 40 seconds each to speak. City Council is now considering eliminating citizen input during City Council meetings entirely. My letter, which I just sent to the Mayor and City Manager Sanders, is below and it is attached as a Word document as well. 

I hope that some of you will use my letter as inspiration to write your own letters or to call to share your concerns. When more of us speak up and tell the Mayor and the City Manager that we care deeply about addressing issues with policing in our city and eliminating disparate and harmful impacts on communities of color it will help them to listen. We have been hearing since the start of the pandemic that “we are all in this together.” Although I am far less likely than many of my neighbors to be impacted by biased policing I want to use my voice to stand with all the people and all the communities in our city. 

Here are the email addresses for Mayor Cownie and for City Manager Scott Sanders: for the Mayor and for City Manager Scott Sanders

April 8, 2021
Hon. Frank Cownie, Mayor of the City of Des Moines
Hon. Scott Sanders, City Manager of the City of Des Moines

Dear Mayor Cownie and City Manager Sanders,

In June of last year the Des Moines City Council passed an ordinance that was a good first step towards addressing some of the bias and the inequities of policing in our city. This bias and these inequities are experienced on a regular basis by too many of us and they have profound, real and consequential impact. This ordinance is intended to eliminate racial profiling by members of the Des Moines Police Department as they carry out their jobs to serve and protect all of the communities of our city. A community-based process informed what the people of Des Moines wanted to see included in the ordinance. There were six points that the community asked for. Some of these points were included in the ordinance as passed and some were not. I urge you to lead the full City Council of Des Moines to strengthen the existing racial profiling ordinance by adding provisions establishing a Civilian Review Board and banning all pretextual stops as inherently discriminatory. As the work of the Marijuana Task Force continues I join others in asking you to immediately make simple marijuana possession the lowest level enforcement priority for our city’s police department.

The ordinance as passed mandates additional training for police officers including cultural diversity, cultural competency, implicit bias and de-escalation training. As you are now well aware the community is alarmed and concerned that the team designated to create and implement the de-escalation training includes individuals with significant problematic histories. I share the wider community’s concerns that these officers are not the right people to implement this training. These mandated training components for our police officers must include widely recognized “best practices” and include resources, both personnel and curriculum, drawing from the best available in law enforcement in our country today. Transparency and accountability are legitimate concerns that many citizens have lifted up. I ask you to address these concerns.

Mayor Cownie, when the ordinance was passed unanimously last year you were quoted as saying “This measure should be viewed as an important beginning for our community to work together, make a positive difference and improve our understanding of each other.” I fully agree with you .Moving forward with a good and a productive process requires that something as critical as de-escalation training be done by the most qualified trainers using the best understanding of how to de-escalate situations and using the best available curriculum. How this training is done and who does it matters enormously. The choices made now will establish that both of you, our City Council and the DMPD are truly committed to building on what we all achieved together last June.

With respect,
Peter Clay

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This entry was posted in abolition, Black Lives, Des Moines Black Lives Matter, Des Moines Mutual Aid, Mutual Aid, police, race, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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