Nichole Harris/The Daily Iowan
Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague said he doesn’t approve of the use of chemical irritants on protesters by both Iowa State Patrol and Iowa City Police Department officers in a livestreamed address Thursday, but he also added law enforcement felt it was important to prevent more injuries or death as protesters moved toward Interstate 80.
After marching for miles around Iowa City Wednesday night, several hundred protesters approached dozens of police officers lined up on Dubuque Street on their way to the interstate.
Officers from both the State Patrol and the Iowa City Police Department then used tear gas and flash-bangs on the crowd without any physical aggression from protesters, according to multiple people at the front lines of the protest.
Teague said Iowa City police were under the direction of the State Patrol, who decided to use chemical irritants on the crowd in order to avoid hand-to-hand conflict and to prevent protesters from reaching the interstate.
“I would love to tell you that that wasn’t the case last night, but it was,” he said. “Law enforcement felt they had to preserve the risk of any type of fatality by doing this measure.”
Teague also expressed sympathy for the protesters demonstrating peacefully, asking that they refrain from destroying property around the city. He said the Iowa City City Council has requested a review of the Iowa City Police Department’s policies.
The Council said Tuesday they would increase cultural competency training among police.
“I am a part of the black community, and I can tell you firsthand that I am grieving,” Teague said. “I am hurt, and I want change, and I want it now.”
Teague said that he, Mayor Pro-Tem Mazahir Salih, and other members of the City Council will be joining the protest Thursday night on the Pentacrest. The decision follows a one-day break from the “Speak Up, Speak Out” sessions he and other community leaders have held this week around Iowa City for community members to have their voices heard.
He said the city intends on making changes in response to the protests, including with the police department, at City Hall, and in housing and schooling. He asked that community members, especially people of color, be involved in those decisions by joining boards and attending public meetings.
“Right now, black lives are on fire, and we need you to come and assist to get this fire out,” he said.