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Scott County Implements Nightly Curfew 'Until Further Notice,' After Violent Unrest Rocks Davenport

Courtesy of Davenport Police Department
Davenport Mayor Mike Matson and Police Chief Paul Sikorski detail a night of civil unrest in the city.

Scott County is implementing a nightly 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew “until further notice," beginning Monday night. The lockdown comes after two people were shot and killed in Davenport on Sunday night, including a 22 year old woman. Two other people suffered gunshot wounds, including a police officer.

Local officials say there was civil unrest throughout the city Sunday night, resulting in more than 45 “serious disturbance calls” and more than 20 shots fired calls. Three fires deemed suspicious are also under investigation by the Davenport Fire Department, and some businesses were left with broken windows.

Davenport Mayor Mike Matson described a group of about 100 vehicles that congregated in the parking lot of the NorthPark Mall beginning around 10 p.m. Some individuals began damaging businesses there before moving to other locations throughout the city, according to Matson, who called the individuals “rioters” and “looters."

At around 3 a.m., three officers in a patrol car were shot at in what Davenport Police Chief Paul Sikorski described as an “ambush," which wounded one officer. At least one officer shot back at the individuals.

Sikorski declined to give information about whether officers hit the shooters or anyone else, but said that two officers have been placed on administrative leave. The state Department of Investigation is investigating the officer-involved shooting.

The unrest in Davenport follows days of sustained protests nationwide in the name of George Floyd, a 46 year old black man who was killed by a white police in Minneapolis who held his knee to Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, despite Floyd’s pleas that he could not breathe. The killing has reignited anger about years of killings of black people by police, and has spurred demonstrations around the world, as Americans call for an end to police brutality and systemic racism.

Matson says Floyd’s killing was “unjust," but decried the vandalism and violence that occurred Sunday night, and now says a county-wide curfew is necessary.

“These incidents last night were not about promoting justice and they were not about honoring the memory of George Floyd. Instead, they were intended to create chaos and purposefully inflict throughout our community,” Matson said.

Separately this weekend, hundreds of protestors demonstrated peacefully in Davenport, calling for systemic change. Matson said he attended a rally and that he “will stand with those peaceful protestors." But he urged calm, and warned that officers will go after “instigators” with the “full force of the law."

“Our community like so many others across the country, is at a crossroads. We must rise to the occasion for the safety of all people and address the strife we are experiencing, with peace, civility and decorum,” Matson said.

Alderman Patrick Peacock, the only black member of the Davenport City Council, said he and other elected officials have participated in the peaceful protests in Davenport, and he echoed the demonstrators’ calls for systemic change.

“We must address the big elephant in the room. And that big elephant in the room is systematic racism. And it’s in all these American institutions. And until we be honest with ourselves and address it, we will still have issues like this,” Peacock said Monday on IPR’s River to River.

Peacock described the peaceful protests as totally different from the unrest Sunday night, which he described as “provocateurs being very opportunistic."

Matson had requested that Gov. Kim Reynolds activate the Iowa National Guard to support local law enforcement in Davenport. Reynolds said Monday afternoon the Guard is “ready to assist and support," when and if she deems that’s necessary.

Curfews are also in place in Polk County and in the City of Coralville, following other acts of vandalism and destruction. Des Moines has seen tense standoffs between protestors and police for three nights in a row, with officers deploying tear gas, pepper spray and nonlethal projectiles on demonstrators and credentialed media. A Des Moines Register reporter who was covering the protests was among those arrested by Des Moines Police.

The ACLU of Iowa issued a statement Monday criticizing the curfews as overreaching, and urged local officials to honor the First Amendment rights of protestors and to not escalate tensions.

“Curfews that bar all presence in public are far broader than necessary to address problems at protests and could interfere with necessary activities like providing care to others," Executive Director Mark Stringer’s statement reads in part. “These measures give police too much discretion over whom to arrest and will lead to selective and biased enforcement and risk harassment of people who are unhoused.”

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter