Des Moines Black Lives Matter brings demands, protests to Iowa Capitol

By: - June 10, 2020 2:11 pm

Iowa Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale (left) speaks with Des Moines Black Lives Matter leader Matthew Bruce (right) about a list of demands the group brought to the Iowa Legislature on June 10, 2020. (Photo by Linh Ta/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Chants of “Where is Kim?” and “No justice, no peace,” reverberated through the Iowa Capitol on Wednesday as dozens of Des Moines Black Lives Matter protesters came with a list of demands for lawmakers. 

The group met with a few lawmakers including Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, who spoke with Matthew Bruce, a leader in the Des Moines Black Lives Matter group.

On Tuesday, the organization released a list of demands for lawmakers. It includes Democrats’ proposed “More Perfect Union” plan, which bans police chokeholds, prohibits the rehiring of police officers who were fired for serious misconduct and gives the Attorney General’s Office power to investigate misconduct at police departments.

“That’s very doable,” Zaun said.

However, when it comes to passing the group’s other demands, Zaun said he was unsure if he would support all of them without more research first. 

The five demands include:

But Zaun said he has “sincere interest,” in addressing racial disparities in Iowa.

“I’m sick and tired of lip service,” Zaun said. “I’m more interested in solving problems and some of the injustices that are going on.”

Iowa Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, shares some of his legislative priorities that address racial disparities in Iowa. (Photo by Linh Ta/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, was also present for the conversation and is one of the lawmakers leading the “More Perfect Union” plan. He said there is partial support for the bill, but he called on Zaun to persuade other Republicans to fully back it.

“What I need from you is your advocacy and leadership in the Senate,” Smith said.

The group also wanted to meet with Gov. Kim Reynolds, who was at the Capitol for her weekly press conference. However, when they approached the governor’s staff room, Bruce said they were told they needed to schedule a meeting with her.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Reynolds told reporters said she has been meeting with Democrats and Republicans to negotiate a bill addressing racial disparities. 

She said she is using the Democrats’ “More Perfect Union” plan as a jumping-off point, though she didn’t commit to fully passing it.

“It’s not the end,” Reynolds said. “It’s a starting point.”

Reynolds said she expects lawmakers to have a bill drafted on Wednesday.

Reynolds said she’s been meeting with community leaders and listening to their concerns, but she did not meet with the group that showed up to the Capitol. She said she was unsure if they requested a meeting with her. 

Bruce said Black Lives Matter protesters have been pushing to meet with her, however, sending her multiple emails and pointing out that “We showed up at her actual house and guess who greeted us? Not Kim Reynolds, but the police.”

He said the group wanted to urge her on Wednesday to sign an executive order granting automatic voting rights to all felons without any stipulations. The Legislature is moving forward with a proposed constitutional amendment, which Reynolds supports, to automatically restore voting rights to felons. However, Reynolds has already signed into law some exceptions to that proposal, including requiring payment of restitution to crime victims before voting rights can be automatically restored.

“It seems like they’re ready to give us lip service, tell us they feel our pain, but when it comes to actually going in and holding their colleagues to the fire, they seem like they’re very, very reluctant to actually do work on the issue,” Bruce said.

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