Thousands march in Cedar Rapids, police announce policy shift
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A crowd of an estimated at least 2,000 demonstrators gathered at Cedar Rapids’ Greene Square to protest police brutality following the death of George Floyd, now nearly two weeks ago in Minneapolis.
Video showed a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck in the minutes leading up to this death, the officer involved has been charged with murder.
During the rally, Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman announced a shift in department policy: he’s requiring officers to intervene if they witness another officer using force that is unnecessary or unlawful.
“This change in our policy is just the start and I’m committing to continue to have these conversations to enhance change so we never have another senseless loss of life like the murder of George Floyd,” Jerman told the crowd.
“What do you think of me today?” Anthony Arrington, one of the speakers, said. “Do you think differently of me? Am I different today than I am in the boardroom?”
People gave passionate speeches, marched through the downtown area, and blocked First Avenue for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. That’s the same amount of time an officer held Floyd on the ground with his knee pressing into his neck.
“There’s no humanity,” Lamar Powells, of Cedar Rapids, said. “We’re all humans at the end of the day. You just can’t have no humanity to stand on somebody’s neck 'til they die.”
Emotions in protesters were running high but they said ending racism can’t be done alone.
“You have to understand that America has criminalized dark skin, and this whole movement is saying we’re getting rid of that,” Toni Thrash, of Cedar Rapids, said. “If we come together and we march, it’s not because we want to cause problems. It’s because we want to be heard.”
Coming together is exactly what Saturday’s protest did.
“Just being able to come together with all of the diversity,” Elana Rasmussen, of Ely, said. “It doesn’t matter what color you are, what race, what gender, what sexuality, that we’re all people and we need to unite together to be able to have that justice for everyone”
To send a message that racism is unacceptable and change is needed.
“People can come together and love each other and support each other,” Aloni Ikiza, of Cedar Rapids, said. “I think that’s the main thing, people just coming together and celebrating life itself.”
“We just want justice for Breonna Taylor, we want justice for George Floyd, we want justice for all the black men and women that have died by the hands of police," Powells said. "And not just police, but white supremacists that basically act like they the police,” said Powells.
Organizers said by keeping this event peaceful it’s going to allow them to hold events of the same size in the future.
Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart and Supervisor Stacey Walker were among the civic and community leaders to speak to the crowd.
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