Cedar Rapids protests are working towards more than just police reform

Published: Jun. 14, 2020 at 7:58 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Hundreds of people marched in Cedar Rapids on Saturday from Bever Park to First Avenue, and back, with a hope of bringing about police reform.

The group “Advocates for Social Justice" has been working with Cedar Rapids officials on several proposed changes:

  1. Establishing a Citizen’s Review Board
  2. Significant investment in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  3. Ban the use of chokeholds, knee-to-neck maneuvers (and other lethal restraining techniques) and strengthen existing use-of-force standards.
  4. Decriminalize minor marijuana crimes and other lower-level offenses.
  5. Impose strict body camera provisions for officers.
  6. Make the negotiations between municipal authorities (management) and the bargaining units that represent police officers public.
  7. Abolish qualified immunity for officers.

Protesters said that change was just the beginning.

“It’s also traumatic to see that we are fighting for the same rights that my ancestors once fought for centuries ago,” Marsean Williams, of Cedar Rapids, said.

Williams said he was at the protest for police reform and building a better future for his kids. Cedar Rapids Police acknowledge that changes needs to happen, and have already said they were working on adding a citizen’s review board and adding language to its use-of-force policy banning chokeholds.

“We just want the government, the city of Cedar Rapids, to understand that we are standing behind these demands and that the pressure is still on,” Leslie Neely, one of the event’s organizers, said.

However, this fight is also about equality.

“My entire life I’ve been told that I can’t wear cowboy boots because of my skin color,” Michael Edmund, of Cedar Rapids, said.

Edmund wore a shirt that said “Normalize my Cowboy Boots," referring to the type of shoes he wears most of the time. He has been riding horses for over a decade and said the pain of being told he can’t wear his favorite footwear can sometimes be too much to talk about.

“I normally bottle everything up,” Edmund said. “Everybody of color has been told they can’t do something or wear something because of their skin color.”

Williams has also received similar treatment from people while operating his vehicle out in public.

“I drive a lifted Suburban,” Williams said. “I get told all of the time, and I get jokes all the time, because I drive a lifted Suburban that ‘oh, I didn’t expect to see a black guy in this truck.’”

The protest was to keep the pressure on the city that change needs to happen, but police reform is only the beginning of the changes that need to be made.

“If I don’t protest, if I don’t fight for today, [my kids] will be affected by the same things I’ve been growing up affected by,” Williams said. “I don’t want that for them.”

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