Public Safety

A peaceful protest and a Coralville curfew keeps calm in Johnson County

Police use social media posts to figure out where crowds may be gathering

Police load shields into a vehicle as protesters chalk the sidewalks Monday outside the Coralville Police Department. Pe
Police load shields into a vehicle as protesters chalk the sidewalks Monday outside the Coralville Police Department. People wrote messages expressing anger and frustration at police treatment of black Americans. Looting and vandalism near Coral Ridge Mall on Sunday night resulted in a Monday curfew, when no problems were reported, and also applied Tuesday night. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — A protest in downtown Iowa City on Monday night was peaceful, with protesters policing themselves when one person broke a glass pane at the Civic Center, police reported.

Meanwhile, in Coralville, where on Sunday night a mass gathering became violent, an 8 p.m. curfew Monday resulted in a quiet night, Coralville Chief Shane Kron said.

“It was a pleasant reprieve,” Kron said. “It (the curfew) has been extended tonight, but hours altered to 9 p.m. to ensure people have the opportunity to vote. We hope people continue to cooperate.”

Nine Eastern Iowans were arrested Sunday night and early Monday after a gathering of about 150 people near Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville resulted in clashes with police, vandalism and looting from a Walmart Supercenter, police said. The incident, which lasted from about 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., caused Coralville to call for an 8 p.m. curfew Monday — the first curfew the city has put in place since the floods of 2008.

Police talked with a few drivers or pedestrians who hadn’t heard about the curfew in effect until 6 a.m. Tuesday, but no one was cited with violating the emergency declaration, Kron said.

No Charges in Iowa City March

Across town, several hundred people gathered in Iowa City on Monday night to march, carry signs and chant messages against racism and police brutality. The group started at the Johnson County Jail, moved to the courthouse and later went to the Iowa City Civic Center, which houses the Iowa City Police Department and other city offices.

“There was some glass near the door on east side that was broken, but it wasn’t broken with the intent of getting in,” said Iowa City Sgt. Derek Frank. “The person responsible was kind of policed by the group itself. They got him out of there on their own. There were no arrests or any charges.”

A teen was briefly detained Monday night after painting on the courthouse, but later was released to his parents, Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek said.

Police Monitor Social Media

Law enforcement agencies across Iowa have been monitoring social media to see where crowds might be gathering to protest the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 in Minneapolis police custody. Video of an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as Floyd said “I can’t breathe” have sparked violent protests across the country.

Two people were fatally shot in Davenport early Monday as a protest raged there.

Frank said officers look for multiple people posting similar information about a planned protest or gathering that might require crowd control. They then try to reach out to community members to verify the information and get more details about time and place.

“If it’s specific and actionable, we’d love to know about it,” Frank said.

Misinformation

Some misleading information online is unintentional, but other messages are crafted to create discord in the community.

Cedar Rapids Public Safety spokesman Greg Buelow said Tuesday the agency had received more than 100 direct messages through Facebook about social media posts purporting there would be home invasions and mass looting Monday night.

“Several stores elected to close early, likely in part to some of these social media threats,” Buelow said.

Police were at the Walmart in southwest Cedar Rapids, where some posts had said there would be looting, and there were no disturbances, he said.

“Misinformation can spread quickly and may be a matter of miscommunication or misunderstanding with some social media posts, and there is likely some that simply post to get attention or cause fear and division,” he said.

Frank, with Iowa City police, advised, “If a person doesn’t have firsthand information about it, I suggest people don’t post it or share it.”

Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

Gazette reporter Kat Russell contributed to this report.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.