116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A blaze that badly damaged a former City Hall building in Iowa and destroyed a makeshift Black children's memorial was being investigated as “suspicious,” according to fire officials.
The fire early Wednesday in Des Moines destroyed a memorial created last summer by the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement. It honored Black Iowa youth who have died in recent years.
Lt. Rick Thomas of the Des Moines Fire Department told the Des Moines Register that the fire is still under investigation and its cause has not yet been determined, but investigators believe the cause is “suspicious.” Investigators were reviewing video of the fire, which was reported around 5 a.m. Wednesday.
The memorial was at the entrance to the 132-year-old former North Des Moines City Hall, which has been unoccupied for many years. North Des Moines was once its own city, but now is part of Des Moines.
The memorial, embellished with flowers, candles, signs and other items, has been a site for vigils and marches. About 100 people marched from a park to the memorial on June 12 to honor Black and transgender women and children killed in Iowa and across the country.
A statement from the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement said the organization is heartbroken and believes the fire may have been set intentionally.
“It’s hard for us to believe that this was not done intentionally against us and the Black children and femmes we have honored there,” the group’s organizers wrote in a statement posted online.
Des Moines police spokesman Sgt. Paul Parizek said investigators also are looking at whether candles could have caused the fire after witnesses reported candles burning at the memorial. Witnesses “also reported two apparently homeless individuals arguing with each other in front of the building moments prior to the fire,” Parizek said.