IOWA CITY — On the third night of marches in downtown Iowa City, the crowd size Wednesday night had more than tripled to nearly 1,000 people.
Hundreds of protesters continued to march late Wednesday night, approaching Interstate 80 where they were met by law enforcement. With the Iowa Department of Transportation temporarily closing down the highway as protesters approached, the protest was dispersed by law enforcement utilizing tear gas and flashbang grenades. Most protesters had left the area before midnight.
Earlier in the evening, one of the most frequent chants among the throng pulsing through the city streets for more than three hours was “no justice, no peace.” But while the group was boisterous, occasionally blocked traffic and spray painted streets and buildings, there were no apparent clashes with law enforcement for much of protest march on Wednesday night.
One of the chant leaders, Brianna Deason, 19, of Iowa City, said she came out again Wednesday despite being sprayed with pepper spray the night before. The incident happened when she was attempting to keep other protesters from assaulting a sheriff’s deputy, she said.
As Deason, a University of Iowa political science student, was describing the incident to a reporter, Johnson County Sheriff’s Deputy Doran Williams came up and apologized to Deason.
“That was me,” he said, offering his gloved hand to Deason. They talked about the incident and then he thanked her for protecting him. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Deason, a chant leader at Wednesday night’s protest, said she tries to talk with officers whenever she can and explain her goals for the protests. She’d like to see area law enforcement take a break from arrests for several weeks and to spend that time talking with community members.
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Dialog is needed, she said, because of police killing people of color, including George Floyd, a Minneapolis man killed by Minneapolis police May 25, and Breonna Taylor, a Louisville woman fatally shot when police did a no-knock warrant at her apartment.
Both Floyd’s and Taylor’s names were frequently chanted by the crowd marching Wednesday.
The march started just after 6 p.m. at the Old Capitol Building and moved to the Johnson County Courthouse, where the county had put up fences and concrete barricades to keep people away from the historic building, which had been spray painted Monday night.
The protest passed in front of the Johnson County Jail, where a deputy watched from the roof and inmates could be seen looking out the front windows. The group walked south and east before coming back downtown around 8:30 p.m.
Correction: Breonna Taylor was a Louisville resident. A previous version of this story had the incorrect city.