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Officers Disperse Iowa City Protesters With Tear Gas As They March Towards I-80

Nearly a thousand protesters marched through Iowa City for some six hours Wednesday night, calling for justice and an end to systemic racism. They walked through the streets, disrupting vehicle traffic and rallying in major intersections, and prompted a closure of portions of I-80, as a smaller core group of protesters marched towards an interchange, before law enforcement dispersed them with multiple rounds of apparent tear gas.

At its peak, the crowd was large enough to fill the street, extending the length of an entire city block. Protesters marched from the Old Capitol through downtown Iowa City, out to Highway 6 and back again, before marching down Dubuque Street and then heading towards I-80 Exit 244 at around 11 pm.

It’s the fifth day in a row protesters have gathered to call for policing reform and racial equality in the wake of the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd, who died after a white police officer in Minneapolis pinned him to the ground with his knee on Floyd’s neck, even as he gasped, “I can’t breathe.”

Some onlookers, workers and drivers were apparently captivated by the crowd, stopping to film the protesters as they moved through. Some honked their support, waving from their car windows, and joining the chanting, even as the marchers delayed their travel.

The group carried signs that read “End Police Brutality,” “Not One More” and “F*** The Justice System.” They chanted “No Justice, No Peace! No Racist Police!”, “Black Lives Matter!” and “I Can’t Breathe!”

Some drivers joined the march, building a caravan of a few vehicles rolling behind the stream of people. Some passengers sat on top of the hoods of the cars as they rode along. One waved an upside-down American Flag, a sign of distress.

Some protesters spray painted sidewalks and buildings as they went.

The group also encountered officers stationed outside of civic buildings, at times standing behind concrete and metal barriers, wearing body armor and carrying shields and batons. First floor windows of Iowa City City Hall were boarded up as the protesters marched by, encouraged by some organizers to keep moving past the officers and not confront them for too long.

“I don’t see no riot here! Take off your riot gear!” the crowd chanted at the officers stationed outside City Hall.

Earlier in the evening, the protesters paused outside the Johnson County Jail, where inmates watched through the windows. One incarcerated individual could be seen holding up their own sign that read, “Black Lives Matter”.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter