Here in Iowa City, we have seen almost nightly standoffs between hundreds of demonstrators and the Iowa State Patrol. A group called the Iowa Freedom Riders has tried several times to march onto Interstate 80 in order to send a message to Gov. Kim Reynolds that enough is enough and it’s time to listen to the calls for justice from Black people across our state and nation.
The Iowa State Patrol has repressed these demonstrations. Last week, they dispersed the crowd of protesters with tear gas and flashbangs, using violence against people protesting police violence.
Over the weekend, police retaliated against one local protest leader, a man named Mazin Mohamedali, and arrested him for an alleged probation violation. Mazin’s arrest was directed by the state Department of Corrections and they quickly moved him out of the area to avoid even bigger protests.
Our movement is strong enough to withstand the loss of one leader, but we have to stand up and fight back against these kinds of chilling attacks on our free speech and civil liberties. Using petty charges from the past as a pretext to perpetually harass, disenfranchise and criminalize Black people for the rest of their lives is exactly what the Iowa Freedom Fighters and CCI members are fighting to change.
Everyone has the right to protest. It doesn’t matter what our immigration status is. It doesn’t matter what mistakes we’ve made in the past. An injury to one is an injury to all. And without justice, there can be no peace. Iowa CCI members demand the immediate release or Mazin Mohamedali and dropping of all of his charges now.
Paul Wittau of Iowa City is an Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement board member. This is a transcription of his remarks delivered at a CCI online event on Thursday.