Four-night Iowa City protest streak begins with call for city action, justice for Makeda Scott and Jacob Blake

In the first protest since the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, the Iowa Freedom Riders urged for more transparency in the investigation into the death of UI student Makeda Scott and action from the City Council.


Hannah Kinson

A BLM sign is seen on a bike on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. Protesters marched to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and throughout downtown Iowa City demanding justice for the shooting of Jacob Blake that happened on Sunday in Kenosha, Wis. and against the recent decision by Iowa City City Council to give the ICPD $230,000 over five years. (Hannah Kinson/The Daily Iowan)

Natalie Dunlap and Caleb McCullough

Iowa City protesters kicked off the first night of a weekend of protests meant to put pressure on local government officials and in solidarity with Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot in the back by police in Wisconsin.

At around 8 p.m., a car reversed in the direction of the crowd at the intersection of Gilbert Street and Iowa Avenue..

A video of the incident posted on Twitter shows the driver of the car arguing with protesters. In the video, the passenger yells “white power,” and throws a bottle at a protester outside the car. The driver hits the protester from inside the car, and the protester hits the window of the car as it begins to drive away.

The car then stops and reverses toward the crowd and hits people standing behind it at a low speed. Organizers said no one was injured.

This comes after a car intentionally drove through a crowd at a protest in Iowa City last week. Michael Stepanek, an Iowa City resident, has been arrested in connection to the incident and charged with two felonies.

“This is what they hate. They hate to see us out here,” one organizer said at another intersection when a car was getting too close to the protesters standing in the road. “They hate to see us protesting civilly. They hate to see us protesting respectfully. They hate to see white people with Black people.”

The group left the Pentacrest around 7:45 p.m. winding around downtown and to the Johnson County Jail, where several protesters spray painted the front door, walls and sidewalk.

Protesters tagged the Pentacrest and walls of downtown businesses after the University of Iowa spent $1 million to remove spray paint from early June protests.

This was the first Iowa Freedom Riders protest since the police shooting of Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Aug. 23.

Blake is now paralyzed after enduring seven gun shots, and Iowa City protest organizers highlighted the fact that a white teenager involved in a separate shooting was able to walk by the police after allegedly killing two protesters and injuring one.

Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, is facing multiple murder charges in Kenosha.

Tina Deng, an Iowa Freedom Riders organizer mentioned that Rittenhouse was able to walk past police officers after the shooting without being apprehended.

“Jacob Blake didn’t get that same treatment, so keep that in mind when we’re [protesting and] fighting for Black lives and remember that a lot of us wouldn’t have that luxury, if that was us being put in that position,” Deng said. “So let that be your fire, I know that’s my huge fire tonight.”

Blake’s name came up in multiple chants throughout the night, as did the names of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Makeda Scott. Iowa Freedom Riders are returning to the Pentacrest Saturday evening to hold a vigil for Scott, a former University of Iowa student who died in June.

Friends and family are asking the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office to investigate her death further. As of Aug. 24, the case was still open, and under investigation.

Shay Church, 17, said Blake’s shooting has added more urgency to the Black Lives Matter movement and brought more attention to the problems faced by the Black community.

“It puts the whole situation out there more. And it’s just bringing more light, not even just to the movement, but just to the things that you know people of my color, or people of color in general, have gone through,” she said.

Organizer Raneem Hamad urged protesters to show up to the Tuesday Iowa City City Council meeting to advocate for the release of a video that Mayor Bruce Teague and Mayor Pro Tem Mazahir Salih said shows the Iowa State Patrol made the call to tear gas on protesters on June 3. Iowa City Police used tear gas and flashbangs on protesters as well, under the direction of the State Patrol.

Also, the group has offered amendments to the planned Truth and Reconciliation Commission to the council, which Hamad said the group wouldn’t proceed with if the amendments weren’t added. Hamad said the proposed amendments would be posted on its Instagram account Friday night, though they hadn’t been posted by publication time.

The council is also considering at the upcoming meeting a purchase of tasers for the police department, which would cost $230,000 over five years.

They don’t have funding for social services, they don’t have funding for COVID, they don’t have funding for housing,” Hamad said. “…but they want to spend $300,000 and give it to the police department, even though [city] council already said they were committed to defunding ICPD.”

Mayor Pro Tem Mazahir Salih said in an interview with The Daily Iowan that she opposes the taser purchase for ICPD.

“We are talking about restructuring the police department…I really would prefer to wait on spending this money for this kind of equipment in the same time that we’re working on restructuring the police,” she said.

Salih also said she wants the video released to the public, though she’s not sure the council has the ability to do that.

While officers were often stationed outside the courthouse and jail during protests in June, there was no police presence until protesters returned to the Pentacrest at and some spray painted the Old Capitol at 9:13 p.m. The previous graffiti on the Old Capitol was cleaned in time for freshman move-in. Six University of Iowa police officers stood in front of the building, as IFR organizers and protesters told the officers they were more concerned with protecting property than they were with justice.

Makeda Scott’s name was painted on the side of the Old Capitol, and the crowd chanted it as police stood on the steps.

“They got time to stop us but they don’t got time to investigate her case,” Deng said.

Protests are planned Saturday through Monday night, leading up to the city council meeting on Sept. 1. Organizers urged protesters to attend the meeting several times throughout the night.

“I’m paying attention to what our local government is doing, because real change happens on a local level, not the national level,” 19-year-old University of Iowa junior Ciara Gallen, who attended the protest, said.

Editor’s note: a previous version of this story erroneously included a sentence that read “Blake’s killing.” Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by a law enforcement officer, and was paralyzed, as mentioned in the story. This article also incorrectly stated the officers standing in front of the Old Capitol were Iowa City Police Department officers. They were UIPD officers. The DI apologizes for and regrets these errors.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a more detailed description and video of a car hitting protesters.

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