BLM Activists Protest Policing Legislation At Iowa Capitol; Troopers Arrest One Protester
Black Lives Matter activists protested at the Iowa Capitol Thursday against legislation that would increase police protections, raise penalties for protest-related crimes, and limit diversity and inclusion lessons. State troopers arrested an 18-year-old high school student during the event.
A few dozen people first gathered outside the Statehouse for the protest led by a Cedar Rapids group called Advocates for Social Justice. Co-organizer Angelina Ramirez said legislators and the governor must prove that they care about Iowans of color.
“I’m telling you from firsthand exposure to the legislators that are passing these bills—they won’t care about their Black and brown constituents unless they’re forced to. Unless they’re pressured to,” Ramirez said. “We must be that catalyst.”
Co-organizer Harold Walehwa said these bills would take rights away from Black and brown Iowans.
“We’re literally in the middle of the Derek Chauvin trial, but we’re trying to pass bills to increase qualified immunity? What kind of sense does that make?” Walehwa asked. “Why would y’all be trying to increase the protection police officers have instead of trying to go for accountability?”
House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said Thursday that the legislature is on a tight schedule and the ongoing trial of the officer charged with killing George Floyd isn’t a factor in the timing of police legislation. He said lawmakers are still working on police and protest-related legislation.
Asked if he can point to action this year that responds to calls for racial justice, Grassley noted the House passed the constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to Iowans with felony convictions. That proposal died in the Senate.
Republican lawmakers have not advanced Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal to ban racial profiling and collect data on police stops.
After a few speeches outside, protesters filed into the building, which is open to the public. They waited in line to go through the metal detector and get a temperature check from security guards. Both are required for all visitors who enter the Statehouse.
Ramirez said the group had also obtained a permit to have the protest there.
Then protesters lay down on the floor for more than 9 minutes to represent the amount of time Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s neck. After that, they stood up and started chanting protest slogans.
Iowa Public Radio observed a state trooper handcuff a protester and push her to the ground. It was not immediately clear what led to the arrest. Some protesters started scuffling with troopers. That ended quickly, and protesters left the building.
Several witnesses said the person who was arrested—18-year-old Josie Mulvihill—simply asked for troopers’ names and badge numbers.
As of Thursday evening, a spokesperson for the Iowa State Patrol did not respond to IPR’s request for comment on the arrest.
The Des Moines Register reported that Iowa State Patrol Trooper Dylan Hernandez states in a criminal complaint that Mulvihill was asking for his name and badge number and “pushed” his arm to get his attention.