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Cedar Rapids to spend at least $1,000 to clean chalk off City Hall

Chalk graffiti left by Advocates for Social Justice protesters

Protesters write messages in chalk for people to see on the steps of City Hall during a We Won't Be Silenced Peaceful Pr
Protesters write messages in chalk for people to see on the steps of City Hall during a We Won’t Be Silenced Peaceful Protest in July 18 in downtown Cedar Rapids. The event was sponsored by Advocates for Social Justice. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The city of Cedar Rapids has spent $1,063.27 so far to clean graffiti off City Hall from an Advocates for Social Justice protest on July 18, city Finance Director Casey Drew said Monday.

There were expletives and acronyms that “were disparaging to city workers,” Drew said, adding that Cedar Rapids residents and city employees had inquired about the timeline to remove the graffiti.

Protesters had written messages in chalk such as “Black Lives Matter” in the rally that started with a panel in Greene Square, where the Advocates for Social Justice discussed their work to research models of citizens’ police review boards in other cities.

City staff washed the writing last Thursday with a fire hose, brushes and other supplies to clean the porous limestone surface, Drew said, but some of the messaging remains.

“We’ll work to kind of continue to look at removing the remaining graffiti safely,” Drew said, adding that the extra time it will take to remove that is not included in the initial total.

The roughly $1,000 total covers about 20 hours of staff time to clean chalk writing on building exterior.

“Some of the writing that was outside the building was not completely removed,” he said. “ ... Some of it’s still kind of a dark impression on the building.”

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Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker said he’d be happy to support a GoFundMe to make up the costs to the city for having the Cedar Rapids Fire Department clean off the chalk, and that there were enough supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement in the city who would be willing to help.

Walker, who participated in the rally and left some chalk messages himself, said it was important for city leaders to listen to the messages the protesters left.

The protest came after the advocates said they felt sidelined by the city when Mayor Brad Hart said he, council member Dale Todd, City Manager Jeff Pomeranz and police Chief Wayne Jerman did not plan to continue weekly talks with the group to form a citizens’ police review board, instead creating a process for public input.

“I think our elected reps of city government need to understand that the only reason we’re talking about police reform is because Black leaders brought it to their attention,” Walker said. “Nobody on the City Council had plans to address these issues. ...

“It was our hope to call attention to this and to implore city leaders to talk to Black people in this community.”

Comments: (319) 398-8494; marissa.payne@thegazette.com

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