Iowa City Freedom Riders introduce new demands at second week of protests

The leaders of the Iowa City protests updated their demands to include a full restructuring of the Iowa City Police Department toward community policing.

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Tate Hildyard

Protesters return to the Old Capitol after marching through downtown Iowa City as part of another protest on Monday, June 8th, 2020. Iowa City along with a majority of the country has been protesting the murder of George Floyd and systemic racism in the police force.

Caleb McCullough, Summer Editor

Updated:


Monday’s protest in Iowa City took on a different form from many of the previous nights, ending in an hour of protesters sharing stories of their run-ins with police and racial profiling.

Protesters started filtering onto the Pentacrest starting at 6 p.m. Monday. Protest organizers, known as the Iowa Freedom Riders, outlined new demands for the Iowa City Police Department, including the full publication of the Iowa City Police Department’s budget and a restructuring of the ICPD toward community policing.

Previously, the Freedom Riders’ demand of the ICPD was a 25-percent reduction in funding, but after the Minneapolis City Council announced it would dismantle its police department and restructure around community-based public safety, the group updated their demands.

After outlining demands, protesters began a march through downtown Iowa City. The route was more centralized than the paths from previous nights, which have taken protesters to Interstate 80 and Highway 1.

The march lasted about an hour, with several hundred protesters in attendance by the time it returned to the Pentacrest. For the next hour, protesters and protest leaders spoke on the steps of the Old Capitol about times they had experienced racism from police.

Jaleel Johnson, a former University of Iowa football player and current defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings, told a story about an incident he experienced while driving with friends in college.

After being pulled over by an unmarked police car, Johnson said several other police cars quickly arrived on the scene.

When a friend of his made a sudden move, Johnson said all the officers pulled their guns, pulled him and the passengers out of the vehicle, and put one of his friends in handcuffs in the back of a police car.

“We’re taught, as men — never be scared,” he said. “But in that moment, I was fearful because I figured I could have been another dead black man here on my college campus.”

Amal Hassan, the mother of Mazin Mohamedali, a protester who was arrested Sunday on charges of violating probation and unlawful assembly, described going to visit a friend when she initially moved to Iowa City and getting pulled over by police who asked where she was going.

She said she had to call the friend to confirm where she was driving to, but police asked her to step out of the car and give them her license.

“I don’t know my rights, I don’t know what to do at the time,” she said. “I don’t know what to do, I was so scared at the time.”

In an interview with The Daily Iowan, Hassan said she thinks her son was arrested to send a message and discourage people from protesting. Mohamedali’s charges of unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct stem from a protest that took place on June 3 in which police used tear gas and flash-bangs on peaceful protesters.

“They need people to not gather,” she said. “They think people, they’re not going to get out, but they do. They come out and they fight still.”

Here is what journalists for The Daily Iowan reported during events Monday night:

10:00 p.m. – After an hour of the protesters sharing stories, the protest disbands. Protest organizers tell protesters not to go home alone, and many people offer to give rides to those that came alone.

9:30 p.m. – Jaleel Johnson, a former University of Iowa football player and current Minnesota Viking, takes the microphone to talk about being pulled over by an unmarked police car while he was in college.

After they were stopped, Johnson says five more squad cars pulled up and he was scared about the potential of violence from the police.

When a friend of his made a sudden move, Johnson says all the officers pulled their guns and pulled him and the passengers out of the vehicle and put one of his friends in handcuffs in the back of a police car.

“We’re taught, as men, never be scared,” he says. “But in that moment, I was fearful because I figured I could have been another dead black man here on my college campus.”

9:18 p.m. – Amal Hassan, the mother of Mazin Mohamedali, a 20-year-old Iowa City protester who was arrested Sunday, addresses the crowd again.

She describes living in Texas when she first came to the United States, where she says a neighbor called the police on her countless times for her children being too loud or being parked close to the neighbor’s house.

She describes going to visit a friend when she had moved to Iowa City and getting pulled over by police who asked where she was going.

She says she had to call the friend to confirm where she was driving to, but police asked her to step out of the car and give them her license.

“I don’t know my rights, I don’t know what to do at the time,” she said. “I don’t know what to do, I was so scared at the time.”

9:00 p.m.With the crowd seated in front of the Pentacrest, people give testimonies of run-ins they have had with the police, and times they have been racially profiled.

Black protesters describe being pulled over for minor infractions, police assuming they have a criminal history, and receiving a disproportionate response from police for minor infractions.

8:40 p.m.Protest organizers give remarks on the steps of the Old Capitol.

Tina Deng, a UI student and organizer with the Iowa Freedom Riders, called on the crowd to share their demands on social media, saying they want to get the attention of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.

“I want Kim Reynolds’ feed to just be filled with our demands,” she says. “All of y’all need to share that.”

8:30 p.m. – Back at the Pentacrest, several protesters sit on the steps of the Old Capitol.

A white, shirtless man attempts to say something into a megaphone on the steps, but protest organizers say they don’t know who he is and tell the crowd to not let him speak.

The crowd boos the man and he eventually leaves the Old Capitol steps.

“Don’t use our protest for personal gain,” one organizer said.

8:15 p.m. – After fifteen minutes stopped at the intersection, protesters head west on Burlington Street.

8:00 p.m.As an Iowa City Freedom Riders’ organizer asks the crowd who feels like they have been followed by police since the protests have started, an Iowa City Police Department car is noticed by the crowd on Linn Street.

The crowd begins to shout “oink” repeatedly in the direction of the car.

7:50 p.m. – Protesters stop at the intersection of Gilbert and Burlington Street.

One Iowa Freedom Riders organizer talks about the decision by the Minneapolis City Council to defund their police department.

He notes that $15.5 million is being budgeted for the Iowa City Police Department from Iowa City’s general fund for 2021.

Iowa City’s police department is set to receive more than $15 million in the proposed budget for the 2021 fiscal year — about 25 percent of the city’s general fund budget and 11 percent of the total budget excluding capital projects.

7:35 p.m. – Stopped in front of city hall, protest organizers introduce Amal Hassan, the mother of Mazin Mohamedali, a protester who was arrested yesterday on charges of violating probation and unlawful assembly.

She says her son was arrested for peacefully protesting police brutality.

“He didn’t do nothing to go to the jail,” she said. “He didn’t do nothing. He was out like everybody else.”

7:20 p.m. – Protesters make a stop after marching east on Clinton Street and south on Burlington.

The crowd is made up of about 300 protesters, a reduction from the multiple thousand that marched onto Interstate 80 Thursday.

The crowd stops at the intersection of Gilbert and Washington Street. Though spray painting intersections has been constant throughout protests, nobody spray paints the concrete after an announcement was made on the Freedom Riders’ social media Monday.

7:00 p.m. – Organizers, who have named themselves the Iowa City Freedom Riders, read off a list of 13 demands for several levels of government on the steps of the Old Capitol. The building has been covered in graffiti over the past several days.

The demands call for a full itemized publication of the Iowa City Police Department’s budget. There is also a new demand for the restructuring of the department toward community policing after the Minneapolis City Council announced its intention to implement a similar reform in the city.

The demand is an upgrade from a previous call for the ICPD budget to be cut by 25 percent.

6:55 p.m. – Protesters gather on the Pentacrest. Organizers hand out Jimmy John’s sandwiches and Gatorade to attendees. The crowd is around 300 people — smaller than previous nights.

Editor’s note: This article previously stated that police funding made up 25 percent of the city’s total budget, rather than the general fund budget. It has been updated to better reflect the city’s expenditures.

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