Iowa City City Council discusses Iowa Freedom Riders’ demands for policy change

The Iowa City City Council held an unscheduled work session at 2 p.m. Tuesday with an Iowa Freedom Riders spokesperson to discuss the organization’s demands for policy change within the city.


Jake Maish

Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague sits alone in City Hall while leading a city council meeting conducted over video chat due to health concerns caused by COVID-19 on Tuesday, April 21, 2020.

Riley Davis, News Reporter

The Iowa City City Council met with a spokesperson for the Iowa Freedom Riders to discuss the dozen demands the group has made to city councilors and the Iowa City Police Department.

Mayor Bruce Teague said the work session, held Tuesday at 2 p.m., aimed to be a collaborative effort between the council and the Iowa Freedom Riders and to prevent the council from misinterpreting the demands or giving the list different language than the organization intended. 

“Today our goal is to meet with city council members and present our demands and request that these demands be met, and that a commitment be made to these demands as well,” the spokesperson, who did not identify herself in the meeting, said. “Most importantly we want to recognize that this is a growing list and… we are continuously updating our list of demands.”

The spokesperson read through the demands, providing clarification as needed. 

The demands were as follows:

  • Drop all charges against protestors, including citations, tickets, etc. 
  • Strong statement from ICPD in favor of protests including deprioritization of law and order; and property damage. Instead a prioritization of police accountability for racism while also addressing issues of systemic racism and inequality. 
  • The full publication of the ICPD budget, specifically on budget spending. 
  • Every Iowa City department should have at least 30 percent of its staff dedicated to diversity and inclusion. 
  • Every institution and business must not only have but also is required to implement an equity tool kit. 
  • A clear and sensible plan for affordable housing. If this is not met those involved must have consequences. 
  • Johnson County Sheriffs/ICPD may not enforce evictions. 
  • Iowa City provides funds for the Special Populations Involvement [SPI program] (Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department). 
  • The curfew must be lifted in Coralville. 
  • A plan to restructure ICPD toward community policing similar to what is happening in Minneapolis, MN; Camden, NJ; and Los Angeles, CA. 
  • Reforming the Iowa City Community Police Review Board [CPRB] so that it has real power, including, but not limited to, the ability to subpoena officers. The reformed CPRB must also have the ability to enact and enforce measurable consequences when the board recommendations are not followed or implemented. 
  • ICPD divestment from and, removal of, military-grade equipment and contracts from the Federal government. 

“These lists of demands, as I’ve read through them personally, are things that are long overdue within our community,” Teague said. “They’re things that when we look at the black community and what has been missing, one has been the voice at the table and so we welcome this opportunity to hear.”

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

The spokesperson also mentioned immediate demands not on the list that included:

  • renaming Wetherby Park after the Black Lives Matter movement;
  • making the annual Jazz Festival a celebration of black culture;
  • creating a truth and reconciliation commission led by people of color that can work on the proposed ideas;
  • and providing city and business spaces for murals that depict pride for the movement. 

After reviewing the demands, the council continued discussing on its own. The spokesperson from the Iowa Freedom Riders left the work session due to another commitment. 

As the council discussed the feasibility of the demands, Teague recommended that they also include the 8 Can’t Wait and the Obama Foundation Commit to Action policies in the conversation moving forward. 

City councilors agreed that many of the more long-term demands would require more information, data, and research on the council’s actual ability to act. These include, but are not limited to, dropping charges and reforming the Iowa City Community Police Review Board. 

Iowa City Councilor Laura Bergus said the city would focus on making the ICPD budget more accessible to the public, hold city institutions accountable to implement equity tool kits, continue to get public input for the Special Populations Involvement program, and write a letter to emergency management asking to dispose of the city’s MRAV — an armored tactical vehicle. 

“What we have in front of us are some very specific requests relating to city policy that we do know that we either have control over or we can influence through our direction or our own requests, so I ask that we focus on that for now with the understanding that there needs to be a broader community lead effort relating to these deeper and longer-term efforts that will take a lot of work,” Bergus said. “But I don’t want us to lose sight of our immediate ability to continue with some of these more specific things.”

RELATED: Iowa City protestors turn away from police line on Highway 1 citing safety concerns

The council plans to have more discussion and possibly vote on some of the group’s more immediate demands at its regular work session and formal meeting June 16. 

In response to the work session, the Iowa Freedom Riders posted on their Instagram account that there will be no protests Tuesday or Wednesday in order to allow the council to make progress on the demands without distraction. 

“To our officials: We will be critically evaluating your response during this period. While some of our demands require a long term plan to execute, many can be enacted immediately,” the post said. “Action on these demands is what will be evaluated. Plans and routes of protests after this period will be designed in the reaction to your execution during these two days.”