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Liveblog: Iowans Protest For Racial Justice For Sixth Straight Night

Natalie Krebs
A protester in holds up a sign that says "No Justice, No Peace" at a demonstration on Tuesday, June 2 in Des Moines.

Large gatherings are allowed to resume starting this week. There's a primary on Tuesday, and the Iowa Legislature is returning to session Wednesday. As the state grapples with reopening, protests over the death of George Floyd have turned violent in Des Moines. 

Continue to follow the latest Iowa news here for the week of May 31-June 6.

Find the latest updates for the week of May 24-30 here.

Friday, June 5

5:29 p.m. – Waterloo Test Iowa Site Transitions From Drive-up To Clinic Setting

A new Test Iowa site that has opened in a Waterloo clinic will gradually replace the city’s drive-through testing site. Some local officials had criticized the program for not connecting patients with health care providers.

The $26 million Test Iowa program is largely run through drive-up testing sites, where results are not added to patients’ medical records. Black Hawk County Public Health Director Nafisse Cisse Egbuonye criticized the lack of coordination with healthcare providers when speaking to reporters last month. “Individuals with underlying conditions, they want to talk to their medical provider. It’s not just about going on the computer, conducting an assessment. People that have language barriers, they want to see someone they can talk to.”

But at the Test Iowa site that opened at People’s Community Health Clinic in Waterloo this week, patients’ results will be included in their charts and clinicians will follow up.

The city’s drive-up site is slated to close on Friday June 12.  

4:43 p.m – Sioux City’s two hospitals have cared for nearly 400 patients with COVID-19 from across ten counties

Sioux City’s two hospitals have cared for nearly 400 patients with COVID-19 from across ten counties, including from Nebraska and South Dakota. That’s since the pandemic first hit Woodbury County in late March.

Sioux City’s UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s President and CEO Lynn Wold said the hospital has seen progress in the number of patients it’s serving in the Intensive Care Unit. The hospital expanded its 18-bed ICU to 40 beds and 11 people with COVID-19 currently occupy those beds “We basically were using four different pods for ICU level care. One pod was non-COVID and we had three pods that were COVID-related. And we are now able, with 11 positive, that we are down into one unit for positive COVID patients,” Wold said.

MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center President Beth Hughes said the hospital has discharged nearly 120 COVID-19 patients who have recovered. MercyOne can flex up to 54 ICU beds with ventilators, she said. Less than half are occupied. “It is some progress, although I will say that the ICU does have the longest length of stay, so we anticipate that we will have a higher census in our ICU longer than in our medical unit,” Hughes said.

Hughes said she learned Friday of a patient who is being discharged after spending more than 40 days in the ICU for COVID-19.  

12:20 p.m. - Scott County Board of Supervisors rescinds curfew

The curfew is lifted starting Friday night. The 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. nightly lockdown was put in place after four people were shot in Davenport Sunday night, killing two.

Supervisors said that after several nights of relative calm, the curfew is no longer necessary.

11:48 a.m. - Iowa City’s mayor decries law enforcement officers’ use of tear gas against protesters Wednesday night

A line of officers fired tear gas canisters and flash bang devices into the crowd of people protesting police brutality, actions that Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague said were “not ok.”

“I am concerned about safety, I am concerned that within our community we need to realize people are so hurt they are relentless in ensuring their massage is heard,” Teague said in a video address on Thursday afternoon.

Teague added that the decision to use tear gas was made by the Iowa State Patrol, out of concern that if protesters reached the interstate, because of the “risk of fatality.”

At its peak on Wednesday evening, there were nearly 1,000 people in the crowd, calling for justice and policing reform, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

After criticizing actions taken by law enforcement officers, Teague and City Councilwoman Mazahir Salih joined the demonstrators in marching on Thursday evening. That night, the protesters made it to I-80, portions of which had been closed. Officers did not deploy tear gas.  

10:34 a.m. - New COVID-19 cases announced  

Thursday, June 4

4:53 p.m. – People pray for justice, peace and unity in Sioux City

An estimated 300 people Thursday united in prayer outside of the Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center in downtown Sioux City, where for several nights small protests have shown support for George Floyd and called out police brutality. 

At the daytime gathering, people from different faiths led prayers for justice, peace and unity. 

Pastor Jeremy Robertson is from Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church. “As a faith leader, what I’m calling for is for my other brothers and sisters of the faith, of other races, to start calling and speaking on the injustice that plagues our country. Amen.”

Towards the end of the hour of prayer, another pastor led the crowd in Amazing Grace. 

4:06 p.m. – Democratic lawmakers propose three state policies to help prevent police violence

The group wants to ban most police chokeholds, make it illegal to rehire officers fired for misconduct, and ensure the attorney general can investigate and prosecute police misconduct.

Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, says no one law can end racism or inequities. “But today we can begin to respond to the crisis, to bring justice to George Floyd, and work towards a day where no Iowan has to fear becoming another hashtag.” 

Yena Balekyani is a community activist protesting for racial justice. She says state leaders have the responsibility to pass laws that represent and protect everyone. “I am holding you guys accountable. I will be here. And if this is not passed I will be in the streets, we will be out here every single night, until black lives matter again.”

2:22 p.m. – Polk County lifts curfew

The Polk County Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to immediately lift a county-wide curfew that had been in place since Sunday. That was one of the demands made by Black Lives Matter protesters who confronted Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie at his home Wednesday night.

The curfew followed clashes with police and damage to downtown businesses over the weekend. In a statement, Board Chair Matt McCoy said those were caused by “a few bad actors.” He said future demonstrations must continue to be peaceful. “Be advised that if this action results in more violence we stand ready to respond in an appropriate manner.”

Before ending the short meeting McCoy thanked businesses for complying with the curfew and police for enforcing it.

1:54 p.m. – On first day back in session, Iowa legislative chambers pass several bills

The Iowa Senate has passed a bill that makes some changes to the state’s medical cannabis program. It restricts THC purchases to 4.5 grams over 90 days with some exceptions, allows more medical providers to certify patients for the program, and allows employers to regulate cannabis use among workers. The bill now goes to Gov. Kim Reynolds for her signature.

The Iowa Senate has also passed a bill to prevent local governments from enacting stricter gun accessory policies than the state. It requires local governments to provide armed security if they ban guns in public buildings.

Additionally, the Iowa House of Representatives has passed a bill to exclude some Iowans with felony convictions from automatic voting rights restoration. The bill now goes to Gov. Kim Reynolds, who previously said she’d support it if that’s what it takes to advance the constitutional amendment to restore felon voting rights.

Read more from Katarina Sostaric here.  

11:00 a.m. - Gov. Reynolds hosts press conference


10:06 a.m. – Fewer Iowa workers file for unemployment

Fewer Iowa workers are filing for unemployment as COVID-19 restrictions are partially lifted on businesses across the state.

Iowa Workforce Development reports 6,920 workers filed new unemployment claims last week, including people who work in Iowa but live out-of-state. That’s a decrease of about 50 percent from the previous week.

The total number of Iowans continuing to receive unemployment benefits declined to about 165,000.

10:00 a.m. - Iowa sees 694 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period ending at 10:00 a.m. Thursday. 

6:03 a.m. – Officers Disperse Iowa City Protesters With Tear Gas As They March Towards I-80

Nearly a thousand protesters marched for some six hours in downtown Iowa City Wednesday night calling for policing reform and racial justice.  As the crowd chanted, “Black Lives Matter”, at times disrupting vehicle traffic on some of the city’s major streets, some drivers honked their support.

Some in the crowd spray painted as they went, tagging sidewalks and buildings. Later in the night, the Department of Transportation closed a portion of Interstate 80 near Iowa City, as protesters marched towards an interchange. Law enforcement officers in riot gear dispersed the crowd using what appeared to be tear gas.

Read more from IPR’s Kate Payne.

12:05 a.m. - Sixth straight night of protests in Des Moines ends at Mayor Frank Cownie’s home

Civil unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis continued for the sixth consecutive day yesterday in several communities across Iowa. In Des Moines, more than 1,000 demonstrators marched to the mayor’s house to demand reforms to policing and changes in policies toward protesters.

After hearing their demands Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie said he feels their pain and said he would support the issues they raised, including passing an anti-racial profiling ordinance for city police. He said it’s only the beginning of their discussions.

“We’re going to keep exchanging ideas, because the solutions to 400 years of problems aren’t going to happen in one night,” Cownie said.

One of the march organizers, Matthew Bruce, said he and others are ready with more issues they want to address.

“We have to start to take away lethal force. We have to end juvenile detention. Put that money into education and mental health,” Bruce said.

Cownie also said he would talk with Polk County officials about ending the nightly curfew and releasing people arrested during peaceful protests.

Read more from IPR’s Grant Gerlock.

Wednesday, June 3

5:28 p.m. – Report projects Iowa hospitals could lose $1.4 billion due to COVID-19

A new report is projecting that Iowa hospitals could lose $1.4 billion between March and September due to COVID-19.

The projection was done by a Minneapolis accounting firm and was commissioned by the Iowa Hospital Association. It found 90% of the state’s hospitals were operating in the red in March and April. This was largely from not being able to perform non-essential procedures.

Marty Guthmiller is the CEO of the Orange City Area Health System. He says even with millions in state and federal support, some of the state’s rural hospitals will close. “While it's difficult to predict, it's relatively certain that we will lose some hospitals in Iowa simply because they do not have the capacity to withstand a downturn in revenue.”

Guthmiller says the CARES Act funding his rural hospital has received so far has only covered operating expenses for 36 days.

Read more on this story from IPR's Natalie Krebs.

4:45 p.m. – Congressman Steve King, R-Iowa, proposes federal payments for hog producers who have to euthanize their animals

King recently introduced a bill that would give federal payments to producers who have to euthanize their hogs. But Iowa’s senior senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says he’s not sure how far a bill like this could go in the Senate. 

Pork processing plants around the country have closed or slowed production because of COVID-19, which means many producers haven’t had a place to bring their market-ready hogs. King proposes a tiered system to compensate producers for the thousands of hogs they may have to euthanize. “The concentration of packers has really left us vulnerable without markets for so many head of hogs and a lot of head of cattle, look like they’re the next ones on the horizon.”

King’s bill does not address cattle. And Grassley says it’s hard to predict how far such a bill might get given there’s not even a clear accounting for the number of hogs lost yet.

4:30 p.m. – Lawmakers adjust to legislative session during a pandemic

With the virus still spreading in Iowa, the legislative session looks different than it did in March. Lawmakers don’t have clerks sitting next to them, and meetings are held in bigger spaces and livestreamed to promote social distancing. 

Most Democrats wore a mask or face shield, and most Republicans didn’t. 

Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad D-Des Moines has been on the front lines of the George Floyd protests in Des Moines, and he gave the opening prayer in the Iowa House. He said the nation and state are in turmoil. “Dear God give us strength to be able to stand together to work together. Give us strength to be able to reach out to one another, no matter what ethnicity, no matter what religion, no matter what political discipline.” 

Senators started the day with a moment of silence to remember Iowans who died of COVID-19.

4:06 p.m. - Football coach who led Iowa State to its first-ever bowl game has died

Johnny Majors came to Ames in 1968 and built the program into a winner. The team went 8-and-4 in 1971 and earned a trip to the Sun Bowl. It went to the Liberty Bowl the following year, which was Majors’ last at Iowa State University. He left for Pittsburgh, where he won a national championship. Johnny Majors was 85 years old.

2:35 p.m. – Republican lawmakers speak at anti-vaccination protest

A handful of Republican lawmakers spoke at a protest in front of the Iowa Capitol Wednesday organized by anti-vaccination activists. 

They say they’re concerned that Iowans’ rights have been violated during the pandemic, as the governor ordered businesses and houses of worship to close to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

Rep. Jeff Shipley, R-Birmingham, said he won’t be, “governed by unsubstantiated health theories.” “If we don’t start respecting freedom and liberty it will be on you to alter and abolish it. And who knows maybe our brothers and sisters in Black Lives Matter and antifa, we gotta find a way to collaborate. But if there are some institutions that are disrespecting human dignity, they gotta go.” 

Shipley said the virus isn’t killing anybody. More than 560 deaths have been confirmed in Iowa. Shipley also mocked Democrats in the legislature for wearing plastic face shields to protect themselves and others from the virus, calling it “in-group virtue signaling.”

8:52 a.m. – Iowa sets turnout record in June primary

With both COVID-19 and local curfews as the backdrop, Iowans participated in record numbers in Tuesday's primary elections, setting the stage locally and nationally for the November election.

Steve King, who has been criticized for making racist remarks, was ousted Tuesday night. Iowa State Sen. Randy Feenstra will face Democrat J.D. Scholten in November, who ran a close race against King in 2018.

In Iowa’s 2nd District, State Sen. Marianette Miller-Meeks won the Republican nomination, and Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District will see a rematch between David Young and Cindy Axne. Detailed results are available here.

Iowa Democrats selected Theresa Greenfield as their challenger to face incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst. Find analysis and results here.

7:25 a.m. – Hundreds marched to the lawn of the governor’s mansion Tuesday

Hundreds of people marched to the lawn of the governor’s mansion in Des Moines on the fifth straight night of protests against the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Protesters chanted “hands up don’t shoot” in front of the governor’s residence while a line of law enforcement watched. Protest leaders talked with police and everyone left peacefully by the 9 p.m. curfew instituted by Polk County authorities.

14-year-old Kaiya Gonzalez of West Des Moines said she has been at the protests every night.

“I think it’s really important that our community comes together to help support and uplift the black community. Because as we’ve see, they’re not getting the same treatment as other races. And I think it’s really important that we are all treated equally,” she said.

Gonzalez says she’s been racially profiled by school authorities and she hopes things change in the future.

Some other protesters continued to march around downtown Des Moines into the night.

Tuesday, June 2

5:20 p.m. – Tyson Foods reports 591 positive COVID-19 cases at Storm Lake plant

Tyson Foods announced Tuesday that 591 workers have tested positive for COVID-19 at its pork processing plant in Storm Lake. These are the results from facility-wide testing.

The 591 workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 is a quarter of the workforce at this northwest Iowa plant. Tyson Foods recently completed facility-wide testing there. The company says in a statement that close to a third of the employees who tested positive have come back to work after taking a required absence. 

Tyson says it will resume “limited production” at the plant on June 3. It announced last Thursday it was pausing production to deep clean and sanitize the facility and wait for employee test results to come back.

Most of the plant’s workforce lives in Buena Vista County, which has more than 850 COVID-19 cases and one death.   

1:42 p.m. – Iowa Department of Safety defends decisions to use tear gas on protestors

A top official at the Iowa Department of Public Safety said many factors went into the decision to use tear gas to disperse a group of protesters in Des Moines last Monday night.

Hundreds of people marched through downtown Des Moines Monday evening to protest the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd.

Protesters broke Polk County’s 9 p.m. curfew marching uninterrupted through the streets until shortly before midnight. This is when law enforcement officials in front of the Capitol used tear gas and flash bangs to disperse the crowd.

At a press conference Tuesday, Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens said the decision to break up the protest at that moment was multifaceted.” Intelligence information that we were receiving from the crowd, physical actions by the crowd itself, efforts by the crowd to approach the capital area and not stay, you know, at the lower levels of it.” 

Polk County’s curfew is in effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. indefinitely. 

1:25 p.m. Iowans voting in primary election will not be affected by local curfews

Gov. Kim Reynolds said at a press conference Tuesday that Iowans who wish to vote in the primary election will not be affected by local curfews. “And I want you to be assured that you will have the opportunity to vote. Voting will not be prevented or impacted due to the curfews that remain in place in some communities. So don't - don't be worried about that.”

Several Iowa communities including Polk and Scott counties and the city of Coralville have implemented temporary curfews. This was in response to some property damage and violence that occurred during protests following the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd.

Polk County Supervisors also voted Tuesday to make an exception to its 9 p.m. curfew for those in line or on their way home from voting.

12:22 p.m. – Polk County votes to make exception to curfew Tuesday

Polk County supervisors have voted to make a specific exception to the 9 p.m. curfew for people participating in Tuesday’s primary election.

Voters in line at 9 p.m. can still vote, and people traveling from polling places after 9 p.m. aren’t subject to the curfew. That’s after the ACLU of Iowa sent the board a letter demanding the exception and saying without it, the curfew order violated residents’ fundamental right to vote.

Some members of the public criticized the indefinite curfew, which the county enacted in response to protests against police brutality and racial injustice.  

The county board chair defended the curfew and said it would remain in place until property damage and violence stops.

11:00 a.m. - Gov. Reynolds hosts press conference


10:00 a.m. – State nears 20,000 COVID-19 cases

State officials are reporting 264 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Iowa. This brings the state’s total to 19,952 cases as of Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.

Twenty new deaths from the virus were also reported. So far, 558 Iowans have died from COVID-19.

More than 11,000 Iowans have recovered, and 327 are currently hospitalized.

9:14 a.m. – Peaceful protest in Des Moines Monday calls for action

State Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad led a crowd of hundreds at a rally on the steps of the Iowa capitol Monday, in what organizers called a ‘call to action,’ not a protest.

It followed several nights of sometimes violent demonstrations across the state sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Reverend Ben Bell Jr. of the group “Dad’s with a Purpose” told those at the rally to push for stronger policies against police violence.

Credit Natalie Krebs / IPR
Hundreds gathered in Des Moines on Monday evening at a rally that organizers are called a "call to action."

“We need to decide if we’re going to create a society where people are afraid to do that to somebody or not. There should’ve been a fear to handle him like that,” he said.

Other speakers called on protesters to vote and get involved in local politics.

After the Polk County curfew took effect at 9 p.m. hundreds of demonstrators from the rally marched through downtown Des Moines, at one point kneeling at police headquarters.

Near midnight, police used tear gas to force a smaller group of protesters to leave the capitol grounds. A Des Moines Register reporter shared videoshowing an officer spraying her with pepper spray after she repeatedly identified herself as a journalist.

Monday, June 1

5:43 p.m. – Mayor of Des Moines comments on the arrest of a local reporter

The mayor of Des Moines—responding to the arrest of local reporter at a protest Sunday—says it’s hard to separate the press from others when there’s rioting going on. 

Police arrested a Des Moines Register journalist for “failure to disperse” while she was covering a protest, even though she says she told them she was with the press. 

Mayor Frank Cownie says police can’t check all credentials and figure out who everyone is, quote, “in the throes of a riot.” “For me we apologize that the individual fell into the group that was arrested but hopefully everybody understands the fear of our law enforcement, we don’t want anybody to get hurt.”

Sunday night marked the third night of protests in Des Moines. Most protesters were peaceful, but a few threw objects and caused property damage.    

4:51 p.m. – Iowa schools start serving free summer meals to kids and teens this week

Iowa schools start serving free summer meals to kids and teens this week, continuing with social distancing guidelines and grab-and-go meals they started serving in March because of the pandemic.

The Sioux City Community School District has served more than 250,000 free meals to kids ages one through 18. Food Service Director Rich Luze says on average, the district has served 4,000 to 5,000 meals each day. “Numbers are coming in about what were expected. We just hope that it does continue on once all the people go back to work once summer rolls in and that we don’t drop off like it has typically been in the past summers.”

Luze says the school district serves around 1,500 meals a day in a typical summer. Usually kids must eat their meals on site. But because of COVID-19, they’ll continue to pick up their meals and leave. 

4:42 p.m. - City of Coralville implements a nightly curfew beginning Monday night, extending from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

City officials say the lockdown is needed after multiple businesses were damaged Sunday night, including broken windows and reports of alcohol and cigars stolen.

People traveling to and from work and home and those “providing emergency response calls” will be allowed to proceed. Any other “pedestrian and vehicle movement, standing, and parking” are prohibited during the curfew.

It’s not clear whether the curfew will be enforced against voters Tuesday evening. Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m., which overlaps with the curfew by one hour.

Curfews are also being ordered in Polk and Scott Counties. All of the orders are in effect until further notice, according to local officials.

4:26 p.m. – Many Iowa counties expected to set new records for absentee voting in Tuesday’s primary election

The push for early voting also appears to be influencing party affiliations.

Normally there are more voters with no party than there are people registered as Democrats or Republicans. But the most recent numbers show both parties now outnumber unaffiliated voters.

Polk County auditor Jamie Fitzgerald says the change ties back to absentee ballot request cards sent out statewide to encourage early voting during the pandemic. Voters without a party were allowed choose one for the primary. And a lot of them did. “What we don’t know is if they’re just participating in an election, if they’re changing parties forever. That’s really up to the individual voter.”

As of June 1 Republicans and Democrats each accounted for about 34 percent of Iowa’s active voters. Thirty-two percent had no party.  

4:21 p.m. – President of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP encourages Iowans to peacefully protest racial injustice

The president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP encouraged Iowans to peacefully protest racial injustice and help turn that into policy changes.

Iowa-Nebraska NAACP President Betty Andrews says COVID-19 has revealed a lot of racial disparities, but it’s not the only issue facing communities of color. She says it’s a perfect time to protest peacefully and raise awareness of what she calls the legacy of oppression of African-Americans. 

Andrews says she doesn’t want George Floyd to have died in vain at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. And she wants policy changes to follow the protests. “Because we need to change the core. We need to address this legacy that started with America’s greatest sin—racism, slavery, and all of its babies that have come since.”  

Andrews spoke at a press conference with Gov. Kim Reynolds, who says she’s committed to having “uncomfortable conversations” about racial injustice and making systemic changes.

4:02 p.m. – Election officials say county-wide curfews will not limit access to polling sites for Tuesday’s primary election

Polk and Scott counties have each set curfews starting at 9 p.m. following protests set off by the death of George Floyd. That’s also when polls are scheduled to close. 

Polk County auditor Jamie Fitzgerald says travel during the curfew will be allowed for voting.We want to make sure voters don’t get confused and say, “Oh my gosh it’s 8:45 p.m., I can’t vote.” We want you to vote. We want you to vote safely and then we want you to go home.”

Many counties have also consolidated polling places as a precaution against COVID-19. Fitzgerald says there will be only 28 voting sites in Polk County instead of the usual 135.  

3:39 p.m. - Reynolds says the peaceful protesters in Iowa had a powerful message, but condemns the violent few

Gov. Kim Reynolds says she stands united with Iowans in grief and anger over the “act of violence that robbed George Floyd of his life.” 

Reynolds says the peaceful protesters in Iowa over the past few days had a powerful message, but condemned the few who turned violent. 

She says she’s committed to listening to Iowans’ concerns about racial injustice. IPR asked Reynolds if she believes this will truly be a catalyst for change when solutions to bias in the criminal justice system have been discussed for years. “It’s not just about listening. It’s about then taking action. But making sure it’s impactful action. That it’s actually making a difference. That it’s not just change for the sake of change.”

Democratic leaders in Iowa are calling on the Republican-led legislature to address racial disparities in various areas during the legislative session that re-starts this week. Reynolds previously formed a committee on criminal justice reform, but it’s not clear if lawmakers will pass their recommendations.  

12:38 p.m. – Gov. Reynolds hosts press conference from Capitol steps

Gov. Kim Reynolds held a press conference Monday from the Iowa State Capitol with Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert, Representative Ako Abdul-Samad and other law enforcement and community leaders. 


12:35 p.m. - America: Are We Ready? Racism, Violence, and Our Future Together

Monday night, WNYC and Minnesota Public Radio present “America: Are We Ready? Racism, Violence, and Our Future Together,” a pop-up, live, call-in show to convene a national conversation in this urgent moment. The special will air across the country on over 250 stations, including statewide on Iowa Public Radio, from 7-9 p.m. CT on all news and studio one signals. Learn more here.

9:02 a.m. – Scott County issues a county-wide curfew effective at 9 p.m. Monday

Scott County is implementing a curfew beginning Monday at 9 p.m., following violence and unrest in Davenport on Sunday night.

Four people were shot in the city, killing two and wounding a police officer. 

The events come as protests spread across the country, to recognize the killing of George Floyd by white police officers in Minneapolis, and to call out systemic racism in American society.

Davenport Mayor Mike Matson says the unrest, which included breaking windows of some businesses, does not honor Floyd. “The behavior on display last night was completely unacceptable in our community and the instigators of this behavior will be met with the full force of the law.”

Separately, protestors demonstrated peacefully in Davenport over the weekend, calling for an end to police brutality.

The nightly curfew will extend from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. "until further notice," local officials say. Exceptions will be nade for people traveling to and from work, government officials and credentialed members of the press.

"The nightly curfew will extend from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. "until further notice", local officials say. Exceptions will be made for people traveling to and from work, government officials and credentialed members of the press."

5:02 a.m. – Vigil in Des Moines Sunday night draws hundreds

Hundreds of people gathered for a vigil in Des Moines Sunday evening for George Floyd, and what they call the state of inequality and racism that led to his death in Minneapolis. Organizers say that kind of racism exists even in Des Moines, where 22-year old DarQuan Jones was attacked and brutally beaten last month by three white men.  His father Darrel Jones spoke at the vigil.

“You can’t take those scars away from my son.  All the therapy and the smiles I’ve got to get back on his face, so he can continue marching through this damn thing called life.  But we’re going to get through it,” said Jones.

Credit Michael Leland / IPR
Hundreds gathered in Des Moines Sunday for a vigil in honor of George Floyd.

The crowd gathered in the park was asked to take a knee and remain silent for nine minutes in Floyd’s memory. That’s how long a Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground.  A few minutes into that tribute, a woman began crying loudly before screaming, “that could have been my son.”

Also on many of the speakers’ minds was the violent confrontations over the weekend between some protesters and Des Moines police.  Des Moines State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad urged parents to try to keep their young people away from the violence.

“And if you have babies that have been downtown these last two nights, you stop them tonight.  You tell them ‘no, it’s too dangerous,’ because we have agitators that are using them to get a program going that have nothing to do with justice,” said Abdul-Samad.

The vigil ended peacefully after a little more than an hour.

Sunday, May 31

6:10 p.m. – Six more deaths reported Sunday 

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 343 cases Saturday and 349 additional COVID-19 cases Sunday bringing the state to 19,484 positive tests overall. State officials also reported testing more than 5,000 people in one day for the first time.

Seven deaths were reported Saturday, and six were reported Sunday putting the number of Iowans confirmed to have died of the coronavirus at 533.

341 people are currently hospitalized across the state. More than 11,000 have recovered from the virus.

Those numbers reflect the 24-hour period ending Sunday at 10 a.m.

5:50 p.m. - Polk County issues 9 p.m. curfew as unrest turns violent 

Polk County ordered a 9 p.m. curfew Sunday after two nights of peaceful protests in response to the death of George Floydat the hands of a Minneapolis police officer turned into violent standoffs between citizens and Des Moines police. The curfew lasts until 5 a.m. on Monday.

"It is heartbreaking to watch as some businesses started responsibly reopening their doors to face this backlash of unrest. It is imperative that we have cooperation from the community to prevent violence and property damage. For this reason, Polk County has no other choice but to make this difficult decision," said Polk County Board of Supervisors Chair Matt McCoy. 

Earlier in the day Sunday, Sgt. Paul Parizek of the Des Moines Police Department wrote the following in a press release:

“Our City is proud to share its streets with thousands of people who peacefully brought their heads, hearts, and voices together to endeavor for equality, unity, and justice. Many came from our diverse neighborhoods. Some traveled a great distance. All brought compassion, empathy, and a determination to make not just Des Moines, but our world, a better place.

A small group tried to steal that. A small group with an agenda of destroying not only property, but also progress.

The men and women of the Des Moines Police Department, together with our law enforcement partners from around the state and metro, put themselves squarely and firmly in between those who brought violence against our community. By the strength of the selfless and courageous services of those officers, we restored order.

The mayhem has the potential to drown out the voices of the peaceful participants who wanted to be seen and heard as they stood alongside our community leaders. Now, more than ever, we must stand together, strengthening our resolve to continue on the path to a better tomorrow for all.

Below is as summary of the activity that began in the early evening 30 May 2020 and ended in the early morning of 31 May 2020:

A crowd of nearly 300 protestors gathered at the Des Moines Police Department at approximately 7:00 p.m., 30 May 2020. The group began to march through the streets of the Downtown and East Village neighborhoods.

The group approached the Polk County Courthouse, 500 Cherry Street, and began to throw rocks and bricks at the building. There also appeared to be an effort to ignite a fire. Police intervention was initially presence only, with guidance for the group to disperse. The group refused those orders, surrounded a contingency of officers, and began to throw rocks and other items at the officers. Tear gas was deployed.

A group moved to the Iowa State Capitol. Rocks and bottles were thrown at officers. Fireworks were intentionally detonated in the directions of officers. Tear gas was deployed.

The group moved to the Court Avenue Entertainment District. Rocks and bottles were throw at officers. Tear gas was deployed.

The group refused commands to disperse, remained in the Court Avenue Entertainment District, continued to attack officers and began to break windows, overturn trash cans, spray paint the walls and windows of businesses, and forced entry into a grocery store.

Before the order was restored, in excess of one dozen businesses were damaged.

Police made 47 arrests for charges ranging from Rioting, Failing To Disperse, and criminal Mischief – 2nd Degree.

Two handguns were recovered.”

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer
Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa
Michael Leland is IPR's News Director
Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter
Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter
Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames
Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.
Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter