The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Johnson County officials call on county attorney to drop protester charges

A proposed resolution cites Zimmermann Smith’s prosecution of multiple transgender demonstrators charged after a protest in October.
Jordan Barry
Activists engage in a protest after a Young Americans for Freedom hosted an event in the Iowa Memorial Union’s Blackbox Theater in Iowa City featuring conservative speaker Chloe Cole on Monday, Oct. 16, 2023.

Johnson County Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Jon Green will present a resolution on Thursday to the Johnson County Democrats to denounce county attorney Rachel Zimmermann Smith for prosecuting several protesters.

The resolution to censure Zimmermann Smith cites a prosecution of seven transgender individuals charged after a protest on Oct. 16, 2023, against the lecture of conservative speaker Chloe Cole. Johnson County Democrat’s Central Committee will vote on the resolution Thursday night.

“I hope it’s an opportunity for us to talk about, as Democrats, if these are the values we should espouse,” Green said. “I think a lot of people are scared of the legislation, of the decisions, coming out of Des Moines, and they are looking to local leaders to protect them or at least make the effort to fight.” 

Green said the response to the resolutions from Democrats in the county has been mixed. 

The resolution states that those who gathered for the protest were to exercise their “Constitutionally guaranteed rights of protest, assembly, and speech.” 

It goes on to describe Iowa’s state government as authoritarian and that the “back the blue” law goes against both the Iowa and Federal constitutions and international human rights. 

The protesters were prosecuted under provisions in a 2021 Iowa law added by Senate File 342, which expanded the general definitions of charges like criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, assault, and harassment, among other changes to laws and penalties surrounding public demonstrations. 

Zimmermann Smith said as county attorney, her job is not to do what is “politically popular or convenient,” but to uphold the law without fear or favor. Zimmermann Smith would not comment further on pending cases or Green’s actions. 

She was elected unopposed in 2022 for Johnson County Attorney, running on a platform including fostering public trust and exploring different ways to prosecute individuals.

The resolution comes after Iowa City’s Human Rights Commission released a statement condemning the arrests and the state government’s treatment of LGBTQ+ Iowans as a whole. 

In a response on social media Tuesday, Johnson County Supervisor V Fixmer-Oraiz said they met with Zimmermann Smith about the protester arrests and asked her to drop the charges, but she reportedly refused. 

 “I ask that the Johnson County Democratic party stand by its commitment to people over politics and vote to support the resolution as it has been submitted without amendment,” Fixmer-Oraiz said. “It is not a choice. It is a people. I do not have the ability to vote on this matter, and I will not subject myself to witnessing it.” 

Johnson County Democratic Party Chair Ed Cranston said the committee is open to hearing resolutions from other members as long as they are given to leadership five days in advance. Cranston said he doesn’t plan to publicly weigh in on Green’s resolution before the vote. 

“I wouldn’t say it’s a regular thing, but it’s happened,” he said. “It’ll be on the agenda, so when we get to that point of the agenda I would entertain a motion for the resolution and a second then we would proceed.” 

He said the county Central Committee, which is composed of two elected representatives from 64 precincts, will vote on the future of the resolution Thursday. 

Green said he plans to send a letter to committee members Wednesday to encourage them to lobby for the resolution. 

“I hoped that the reason behind it is evident in the text of the resolution,” Green said. “I thought that it was the best way to address the situation.” 

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About the Contributors
Parker Jones, Managing Editor
Parker Jones is the Managing Editor at The Daily Iowan. She is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema with a minor in art. Previously, she was an arts editor, an arts reporter, and a digital producer for the DI.
Sabine Martin, Executive Editor
Sabine Martin is the Executive Editor of The Daily Iowan. She is a senior at the University of Iowa studying journalism and mass communications and international studies. Sabine is also earning a minor in French. As a current member PolitiFact Iowa team, Sabine was previously Managing News Editor, News Editor, Summer News Editor, and a News Reporter covering higher education at the DI. Sabine interned for U.S. News and World Report in Washington, D.C. in 2023 as an education reporter and for the Cedar Rapids Gazette in 2022.