Public Safety

Large Iowa City protests led to only 15 people charged

Protesters block traffic on Burlington Street during protests in Iowa City on the night of Tuesday, June 2, 2020. (Nick
Protesters block traffic on Burlington Street during protests in Iowa City on the night of Tuesday, June 2, 2020. (Nick Rohlman/Freelance)

IOWA CITY — Large demonstrations across Iowa City this month resulted in only 15 people facing charges and seven arrests, according to city data.

The Iowa City Council is scheduled to hold a special formal meeting Tuesday to discuss the 12 demands of the Iowa Freedom Riders, a group representing the interests of the Black Lives Matter movement in Iowa City. Among those demands is the city dropping all charges — including citations and tickets — against protesters.

While the City Council during its Tuesday work session expressed a willingness to consider that request, there were two issues. One, a majority of the council wished to see a list of charges before calling for them to be dropped. Second, charging decisions are made by the Johnson County Attorney’s Office.

To that end, included in an 87-page information packet related to Tuesday’s meeting is a list of charges for the council to review. City Manager Geoff Fruin and City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes noted that only three speeding and stop sign charges are under the city’s discretion. The rest will be prosecuted by the Johnson County Attorney’s Office.

“The council can make a request to drop charges,” the memo reads, but city staff does not make a recommendation to do so.

Information provided by the city shows charges were filed against 15 people between May 30 and early June 9 “proximal to demonstration locations, dates and times.” Of those, seven people were arrested, but two of them were cited and released. An arrest is pending for one person facing a drunken driving charge.

Charges include unlawful assembly, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct, possession of drug paraphernalia, drunken driving, possession of firearms under the influence and various traffic violations.

Only two people had their vehicles impounded, according to the city’s data.

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Ten of the people charged list Iowa City addresses, one person is from North Liberty, one is from Cedar Rapids and three live outside the Corridor.

Some of the arrests and citations appear to be a result of the 50 traffic stops made by officers near the demonstrations. More than 70 percent of those traffic stops — 37 — resulted only in warnings.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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