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Police Letter Fuels More Tension with IA Protesters

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement has asked the Des Moines City Council to intervene in cases where the group feels that protesters have been unfairly targeted by police. (Iowa CCI)
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement has asked the Des Moines City Council to intervene in cases where the group feels that protesters have been unfairly targeted by police. (Iowa CCI)
September 16, 2020

DES MOINES, Iowa -- In many U.S. cities, relationships have soured between police and protesters, who say officers use strong-arm tactics during demonstrations against racial injustice. In Iowa, those tensions are on the rise again.

A Des Moines community group is calling attention to a letter sent to a city council member who tweeted concerns about the August arrest of two Black Liberation Movement activists. The charges came after a nonviolent protest. Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement claims the letter, which criticized the council member's concerns, was sent by a police union in secret.

Sharon Zanders-Ackiss, the group's special-projects director, said it speaks volumes about leadership.

"We're looking at who's policing who," she said. "Is it the police policing our elected officials, or are elected officials able to police the police?"

She said this could be viewed as another way to suppress voices. The group said the Des Moines Gold Braid Organization sent the letter to avoid a public records request. The Des Moines Register received a copy and confirmed the group's claims about the content. The union called the council member's statements "unprofessional" and said the department's actions were a de-escalation tactic.

City officials, including the council member who received the letter, said they have empathy for protesters, but also acknowledge the union's right to free speech. Zanders-Ackiss said it's disheartening that after some of the summer tension had eased, the union sought intimidation through a back-door form of communication.

"If there's going to be a bridge of repair between community and police," she said, "it has to start with transparency."

At various points this summer, police officials and protesters did show signs of unity. But during some of the demonstrations, they clashed with those marching by using tear gas and pepper spray.

The Des Moines Register letter is online at desmoinesregister.com.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - IA