Suspicious package outside Emma Goldman Clinic deemed not to be a threat, police say

Iowa City Police and the Johnson County Metro Bomb Squad responded to a report of a suspicious package Friday morning.


Grace Smith

A member of the Metro Area Bomb Squad steps away from a package in front of Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022. The University of Iowa issued a Hawk Alert describing the package as “suspicious” around 11:20 a.m.

DI Staff

Update 12:25 p.m.: Iowa City police have determined a suspicious package left outside the Emma Goldman Clinic on Friday was not a bomb.

At around noon, police started tearing down the caution tape around the clinic after it was concluded there was no threat posed by the package.

“The suspicious packaged was determined to not be a threat and has been removed,” Iowa City Public Safety wrote in a tweet. “The Johnson County Metro Bomb Team is leaving the area and Dubuque Street will reopen to normal traffic shortly.”

At 11:10 a.m. the Johnson County Metro Bomb Squad arrived on scene after being requested by the Iowa City Police, Iowa City Public Safety Information Officer Lee Hermiston said. An officer in a bomb disposal vest came out to assess the situation multiple times before the package was deemed safe.

The suspicious package left outside the Emma Goldman Clinic is seen after police deemed it not a threat on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022. (Ryan Hansen/The Daily Iowan)

Francine Thompson, Emma Goldman Clinic executive director, said when staff arrived at work they saw the suspicious package and called the police. The clinic provides sexual and reproductive health care primarily for women, but its services are available to all genders. It’s often the site of anti-abortion rights protests in Iowa City. 

“It doesn’t happen often, even though certainly across the U.S., many clinics are faced with the ongoing threat of violence as abortion providers,” Thompson said. 

Thompson said the clinic follows a protocol to evacuate in the case of a suspicious package that could be a bomb. The clinic will be closed for the rest of the day and some appointments were canceled. 

“That is the intention and the goal of folks who do things like this to disrupt business and threaten and intimidate not only the clients who are seeking services, but also the staff that works at those clinics that provide the services,” Thompson said. 

Iowa City police and the Johnson County Metro Bomb Squad were investigating the package Friday morning. Caution tape was set up around the clinic and a portion of Dubuque Street was blocked off.

“After responding to that, we requested assistance from the Metro Bomb Squad who arrived on scene at around 11:10 a.m,” Hermiston said.

A truck with the Johnson County Metro Bomb Squad is seen in Iowa City on Friday, Feb. 18. 2022. Police responded to a report of a suspicious package near Dubuque and Market streets. (Meg Doster/The Daily Iowan)

Thompson said threats and harassment to the clinic are a waste of the public’s resources. 

“We are not as a business and organization going to be intimidated by the harassment of folks who would want to shut us down and create that fear,” Thompson said. “We will make things as safe as possible for our staff and clients.”

A University of Iowa Hawk Alert initially told people to avoid the area, as law enforcement were on scene investigating. At 12:20, another Hawk Alert said the situation had been resolved. 

“Situation regarding suspicious package has been resolved, resume normal activity,” the alert said.

Haley Bruce, UI Department of Public Safety assistant director for communication and external relations said she does not have any additional information to share at this time. 

Will Hanlon, a UI student, said he was on his way to get lunch when he saw the situation unfolding and decided to take a look.

“I didn’t know what that building was,” Hanlon said. “I guess I wouldn’t think it was suspicious if it wasn’t in front of that building.”

Megan Smith, another UI student, lives down the street from the clinic and decided to check out the situation. She said the package was meant to send a message.

“They don’t want abortions,” Smith said.

Sabine Martin, Meg Doster, and Ryan Hansen contributed to this story. This is a developing story. Check back for updates.