IOWA LEGISLATURE

Black Lives Matter protesters press Iowa lawmakers, governor's staff

Matthew Bruce with Des Moines Black Lives Matter leads a chant at the State Capitol on Wednesday in Des Moines. The prot
Matthew Bruce with Des Moines Black Lives Matter leads a chant at the State Capitol on Wednesday in Des Moines. The protesters met with Iowa House Democrats, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and members of Gov. Kim Reynolds staff to press their five demands. (Brian Powers/Des Moines Register via AP)
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DES MOINES — Racial justice protesters took their cause inside the Iowa State Capitol on Wednesday and spoke with state lawmakers and the governor’s staff.

Matt Bruce, one of the organizers of the Black Lives Matter protest, said protesters spoke to a meeting of all the Iowa House Democrats; to Republican Sen. Brad Zaun, who chairs the Senate’s Judiciary Committee; and to members of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ staff.

Zaun said he was “95 percent” sure state lawmakers would approve three Democratic legislative proposals that would ban police use of choke holds; ban the rehiring of law enforcement officers who have been fired for misconduct or use of excessive force; and allow the state attorney general and county attorneys to investigate police misconduct.

“(Legislative leaders) are definitely trying to solve the problems that have been advocated,” Zaun said. “I’m pretty certain that we will pass those three items.”

Bruce said the protesters at times felt they were “being fed lip service” during their time in the Capitol and said some lawmakers tried to avoid them.

Bruce warned state leaders that black Iowans’ frustration with the inaction of elected leaders will only grow if nothing is accomplished this legislative session.

“We told (state lawmakers) they have a serious security breach already in the state of Iowa. Racism and racist violence is the No. 1 issue in the state, the No. 1 issue affecting people’s safety,” Bruce said. “All over the state, it’s going to be hard for (protest) organizers to keep control of the tension, keep control of the anger and the rage.”

Black Lives Matter of Des Moines issued five policy demands:

• Adopt the three policy proposals from legislative Democrats.

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• Decriminalize cannabis and expunge all cannabis-related offenses from people’s records.

• End juvenile detention.

• Kill proposed legislation that would restrict the state’s top elections official from mailing out absentee ballot request forms unsolicited. (See related story, page 5A.)

• Issue a gubernatorial executive order automatically restoring voting rights of felons who have completed their sentence.

Zaun said he felt good about the discussion he had with the group in the Capitol rotunda. He said that discussion and a private discussion he had this past week in Des Moines had opened his eyes to the issues facing black Iowans.

“I told (the protesters) I’m not looking for something that’s going to make you feel good; I’m looking for something that makes a difference,” said Zaun, who noted that in recent years he has attempted to get anti-racial-profiling legislation passed. “I think this is something that we could work on, not only this session but certainly in the future as well.”

Bruce said protesters did not meet Reynolds and were told they needed to make an appointment. They did that, he said.

Comments: (563) 383-2492; erin.murphy@lee.net

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