Protest met with barricade, around 100 law enforcement officers in Coralville

After returning from a two-day break in which members of the Iowa Freedom Riders discussed their demands with city council members, peaceful protesters marched to Coralville to continue fighting against racial injustice.

Iowa+Citizens+march+past+the+Old+Capitol+as+part+of+a+protest+on+Thursday%2C+June+11th%2C+2020.+Iowa+City%2C+along+with+several+major+cities+across+the+country%2C+has+been+a+center+for+protesting+racism+in+the+police+force+and+the+murder+of+George+Floyd.+

Tate Hildyard

Iowa Citizens march past the Old Capitol as part of a protest on Thursday, June 11th, 2020. Iowa City, along with several major cities across the country, has been a center for protesting racism in the police force and the murder of George Floyd.

Josie Fischels, Summer Editor


A crowd of around 200 protesters, led by the Iowa Freedom Riders, were met with around 100 law enforcement officers at a concrete barrier set up on First Avenue leading to Interstate 80 in Coralville Thursday evening. 

The Iowa Freedom Riders had called for a protest at 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon after taking a two-day hiatus from nightly protests while they discussed their demands with members of the Iowa City City Council. The council held a special work session on Tuesday to meet with an Iowa Freedom Riders spokesperson, but protest leaders said in an Instagram post Wednesday that they would continue to march since the council had yet to take action.

The council said they would be going over some of the group’s more immediate demands in their formal meeting and work session on June 16.

After gathering briefly on the Pentacrest, the group marched down Iowa Avenue to First Avenue in Coralville, stopping on the road outside of University of Iowa Healthcare, where law enforcement officers had set up concrete barriers.

Iowa State Troopers stand behind a barricade blocking I-80 from protesters on Thursday, June 11th, 2020. Iowa City, along with several major cities across the country has been a center for protesting racism in the police force and the murder of George Floyd. (Tate Hildyard)

Around 100 law enforcement officers, many wearing riot gear, stood in a line behind the barrier as protesters stood on the opposite end for a little over an hour. Leaders and protesters shouted chants and spoke out about negative experiences they’d had with police into a megaphone over the barrier, which stood over 5 feet tall. 

Khalid Sharif-Sidi, a resident in the anesthesiology department at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, told a story about a time he had to treat a white man with a swastika tattoo. He said that he treated the man as he would any other patient despite the man’s beliefs because of his position as a doctor. 

RELATED: Iowa City City Council discusses Iowa Freedom Riders demands for policy change

Sharif-Sidi compared his experience to the disproportionate way police officers target and treat black people due to personal racial biases.

“I’m held to a standard as a doctor and you guys need to be held to a standard as police,” Sharif-Sidi said into a megaphone, facing the police line. “Listen, I respect all of you. I know that’s not the popular opinion right now. I know that, but I know that we’re not going to get over this unless we both realize that there’s a problem.”

After a little over an hour, Iowa Freedom Rider leaders said that law enforcement were not listening to them and the crowd returned to the Pentacrest. Most of the crowd sat in the grass after the long trek in the 80 degree heat. 

“This isn’t it,” one organizer said. “We’ll be out here again.”

Here is what journalists for The Daily Iowan reported during events Thursday afternoon into the evening

8:30 p.m. – The crowd returns to the Pentacrest. One organizer speaks about common stereotypes and microaggressions that black women face before the crowd disperses.

7:20 p.m. – The crowd turns around again to recover a medic from the group who had been previously pulled over. The crowd turns again, this time shielding one of the cars.

6:50 p.m. – After deciding that the officers are not listening, the leaders of the Iowa Freedom Riders direct the crowd to turn around and leave the barricade.

6:40 p.m. – A lead protester announces that there are 90 State Patrol officers — one third of the total force in Iowa —  there. There are around 200 protesters present at the barricade.

6:10 p.m. – Khalid Sharif-Sidi, a resident in the anesthesiology department at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, told a story about a time he had to treat a white man with a swastika tattoo. He said that although he would not personally want to, he treated the man as he would other patients because of his position as a doctor.

“I just don’t want you to make rash decisions against us,” he said into a megaphone, facing the police line. “I’m held to a standard as a doctor and you guys need to be held to a standard as police.”

5:50 p.m. – Iowa Freedom Riders and other protesters speak out about negative experiences with police through a megaphone over the barricade.

5:40 p.m. – A line of dozens of police have set up a barricade up ahead on First Avenue/Hayden Fry Way. Organizers instruct protesters not to cross the barricade as they approach, chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” officers hold shields and many are wearing riot gear.

5:30 p.m. – A brief, tense exchange occurs between a few protesters and bystanders who were recording nearby.

5:10 p.m. – Protesters form a line and approach police on First Avenue/Hayden Fry Way, chanting, “Black Lives Matter.” Police keep ahead of protesters and a few police vehicles follow at a distance behind. 

Protesters chant the number for the Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project while leaders remind the crowd that this is a peaceful protest.

5:00 p.m. – Protesters chant, “I can’t breathe” while white allies reply with “let them breathe” at the intersection of First Avenue/Hayden Fry Way and Second Street. Several police officers are stationed a short distance off.

4:30 p.m. – The crowd heads into oncoming traffic as they march down Riverside Drive. Some cars honk with the protesters while others turn around and go the other direction. A Cambus driver driving the Hawkeye Express holds their fist up in solidarity.

4:00 p.m. – The crowd begins marching down Jefferson Street and turns onto Madison Street, chanting. Mayor Bruce Teague and City Councilor Janice Weiner are seen in the crowd. Organizers instruct the group to take up the entire street as they gather at the intersection of Madison and Iowa Ave.

3:50 p.m. – At the start of the protest, Rockne Cole, Mazin Mohamedali’s lawyer addresses the crowd. 

Mohamedali was arrested Sunday and charged with disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly related to protesting on June 3, and violation of probation stemming from a second-degree robbery conviction in 2018.

The UIPD later charged him with second-degree criminal mischief — which is a felony — fifth-degree criminal mischief, and criminal trespass for actions on the Pentacrest during last week’s protests.

“He sends you his greetings from the Marshall County Jail, and although he can’t be physically present here with you, he is with you in spirit and in total solidarity for what you stand for,” Cole says. 

 A little more than 200 people gather in front of the Pentacrest.

3:10 p.m. – A group of around 50 protesters have gathered on and around the Pentacrest. Protest organizers, the Iowa Freedom Riders, announced that there would be a 3 p.m. protest today after the group took a two day break to discuss their demands with city leaders. According to the IFR’s social media, the city has yet to take any action. 

The Iowa City City Council met with an Iowa Freedom Riders spokesperson during a special work session on Tuesday to discuss some of their demands. The council said they would be going over some of the group’s more immediate demands in their formal meeting and work session on June 16.

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