CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids group calling for police reform has planned a protest in response to Mayor Brad Hart’s recent message that city officials do not plan to continue participating in weekly negotiation meetings.
The Advocates for Social Justice plans a panel with Cedar Rapids city officials from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday in Greene Square to update the community on progress on the group’s seven demands for police reform, according to a statement. The advocates will answer questions from the public regarding their research on citizens’ police review board models structures and said they invited city officials to join.
It is not known yet which city officials plan to participate. City spokesperson Maria Johnson said no confirmation or details have been provided yet.
Protesters last gathered in Greene Square on June 6 to march through downtown streets after George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody. A crowd of about 2,000 protested police brutality.
The local Black Lives Matter organizers announced the protest Friday after Hart emailed them that he, City Manager Jeff Pomeranz, Police Chief Wayne Jerman and council member Dale Todd do not plan to continue attending those meetings.
Leaders of the protest group have said they feel sidelined by the council’s process to receive public input at council meetings and online, and they have urged the council to turn to the Advocates for Social Justice as a task force to help form the citizens’ review board.
City leaders decided to forgo creating a panel to consider how to approach forming a review board to hold the police accountable, which the advocates decried as a move to exclude them from the process. Hart has invited them to continue to engage with him in one-on-one conversations and through the public process.
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“Issues of police reform will disproportionately impact Black individuals in the Cedar Rapids community,” group leader Leslie Neely said. “We need to make sure that these are the voices that are being heard, and we cannot guarantee that using an online survey.”
Hart told The Gazette last week he expects the group to be engaged in the public process.
“Probably because a lot of the community won’t be engaged, (the advocates will) have even more of an opportunity to provide input through our meetings and through the surveys and through the focus groups and all the ways that we technically reach out to the community on key community issues,” he said.
Nicole LeGrand, co-founder of the Advocates for Social Justice, said that statement is “very problematic.”
“He has a large and diverse group of passionate community leaders from ASJ supported by thousands of residents of Cedar Rapids asking to be directly involved, and yet he decided that a survey and public hearings, that he himself believes will yield low results, is the best option,” LeGrand said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
Hart said at the City Council’s Tuesday meeting that everyone needs to work together to confront implicit biases and be actively anti-racist to bring about a more just and equitable city.
“We will continue to listen to our community — to everyone in our community — as we move forward on the remaining demands,” he said. “And let’s take stock in what’s been done and trust that we’re in this together with the same goals.”
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