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Peaceful Iowa City protest involves sharing stories of racial profiling

Nearly 500 people gather to call for change, including reducing police funding

Protesters march Monday evening on Iowa Avenue in Iowa City during a protest for racial justice. Protesters promised to
Protesters march Monday evening on Iowa Avenue in Iowa City during a protest for racial justice. Protesters promised to stay off major highways and asked participants to stop spray painting. (Nick Rohlman/freelance)
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IOWA CITY — A march Monday night in downtown Iowa City was smaller than other recent protests, but organizers told the crowd they were hopeful conversations with city and university leaders would bring more racial justice.

“Change is coming,” one speaker said about a meeting she said she had with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Chief Executive Officer Suresh Gunasekaran.

Nearly 500 people marched downtown for about two hours. Leaders announced the group would not head to Interstate 80 and that spray painting streets and buildings was discouraged. The peaceful evening followed Wednesday, when police used tear gas and flash grenades to keep marchers off the interstate, and Sunday, when marchers were turned away from Highway 1 and Highway 218 by a police line.

Iowa City has had nightly marches to protest police killings, such as the May 25 death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in custody of a white Minneapolis police officer.

The moving protest stopped at several intersections to share chants, accompanied by a bongo drum and motorcycle revs. One chant leader listed needs that should be funded before police. He started with schools, teachers and health care, but saying “recreation programs” broke the cadence of the chant and made the crowd laugh with him.

But as the march ended in front of the Old Capitol, people of color used the microphone to tell stories of being racially profiled by police. Members of the Iowa Freedom Riders asked the crowd to share their demands for change, which include cutting the Iowa City Police Department’s budget by 25 percent, dropping charges against protesters and ending a curfew in Coralville.

Rayanna Haslett-Tomova, 20, of Iowa City, said she supports the Minneapolis City Council’s vote to disband its police department.

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“No one feels safe when they’re around,” she said of police officers. “There’s supposed to be a safe environment, but when they’re around it makes us so anxious.”

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