116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Protesters took a stand Thursday evening on a divisive issue making headlines nationwide.
Upward of 100 people gathered at the University of Iowa Pentacrest in downtown Iowa City — chanting, clapping, singing — in a peaceful protest against police brutality nationwide.
The 'Black Lives Matter' rally was called in the wake of the deaths this month of black men at the hands of police in Minnesota and Louisiana. The organizers — Abigail Thomas, Nailah Roberts and Taylor Davis — called for changes within the Iowa City and UI police departments.
Many spoke of the importance of taking a stand — or even simply voting.
Davis, of Iowa City, said this was the first Black Lives Matter rally he has attended. To him, it was a chance to break his silence.
'There's a lot we can do,' Davis said. 'Protesting is only the beginning.'
T'era Kirk, 21, and Quay Campbell, 22, both of Iowa City, were among the first to arrive after hearing about the event on Facebook. Both later spoke at the rally.
Kirk said after seeing everyone gathered for the rally she was 'confident my city would speak out on my behalf' if something were to happen to her.
Campbell and Kirk both said they often are fearful of the experiences they have with police officers.
'Every time I leave the house, I have to wonder if I won't come back,' Campbell said.
Campbell, who has a young son and daughter, said he will have to have conversations with his children about police brutality.
On the rally's Facebook page, organizers referred to two incidents they allege represent excessive force.
One incident, in 2014, a UI student was arrested while walking home and later found guilty of public intoxication. Organizers said UI police profiled him 'as Hispanic although he was white.'
A second incident referenced took place in 2015 when a black teenager was arrested at the Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center 'using unwarranted, intense force,' organizers said.
Part of the incident was captured on a short video clip and posted at the time on the change.org website.
Iowa City Sgt. Scott Gaarde said the department has addressed the incident since it occurred. In a memo at the time, the city manager said the officer had not violated policy but would receive additional training.
Gaarde said his department was aware of the rally before it took place.
'We're certainly here to protect the personal rights of individuals and we are certainly against police brutality, because it makes an already difficult job even harder,' Gaarde said.