DES MOINES — Rob Johnson believes this moment is different.
It’s what motivated Johnson, a Des Moines pastor and racial justice advocate, to leave his day job to become one of the leaders of the new, Iowa-based No Justice No Peace PAC.
“I had a nice comfy insurance job. I had a nice office job. I was making great money. I was climbing up the corporate ladder,” Johnson said. “And this moment catapulted me to leave there because I could not go back to business as usual. I could not go back to pitching annuities and life insurance without addressing the disparities. … I took that leap of faith and put my income and everything else on the line because of this moment right here.”
Johnson joined a team that includes Al Womble, Eddie Mauro, Mark Langgin and Scott Harrington in forming No Justice No Peace.
Launched just more than a month ago, the organization aims to advocate for racial justice policies and support political candidates who support those policies.
“The only way that change will come is when we change policy. And if that means we have to change the person to get the right policy, then that’s what we’re doing right now,” Johnson said. “We are putting our bodies, our minds, our income on the line to make sure that this isn’t just a fly-by-night thing, to make sure this isn’t just a news cycle and then it’s on to the next. We are going to fight until change comes.”
Johnson said the group considers itself nonpartisan and will support any candidate, from local to federal campaigns, who supports the policies the group is proposing, though he concedes that is more often with Democrats.
The group is advocating for policies such as lowering penalties for marijuana possession and use, addressing how law enforcement officers conduct traffic stops and use choke holds and other methods of force, and starting citizen review boards for police agencies.
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“We’re partnering with anyone who is pushing the ideas that we are pushing, and that is truly that Black lives do matter,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the young organization still is fundraising in an attempt to put together advertising for its cause. He said in conjunction with this Friday’s national Black Voter Day, leaders with the group plan a statewide tour with events in at least a half-dozen cities from river to river. Planned stops include Sioux City, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Davenport.
“Our No. 1 ask is fundraising because we know that this is the way you can get an opportunity to get our message out there,” Johnson said. “You need money to run commercials. You need money for signs … to put on events and show that there are people who are still caring about these issues.”
Johnson said anyone interested in supporting the PAC can visit its website, nojusticepac.org.
In addition to viewing No Justice No Peace as nonpartisan, Johnson said the group’s message does not pit white people against Black people, or people against law enforcement.
“They will understand this is everybody vs. wrong, everybody vs. injustice,” Johnson said. “That is where we stand. That is where we pitch our tent.”
Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His column appears Mondays in The Gazette. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy