Cedar Rapids leaders end talks with Black Lives Matter group
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart said he, City Manager Jeff Pomeranz, City Council Member Dale Todd and Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne German will no longer meet with The Advocates for Social Justice, according to emails reviewed by I9.
The Advocates for Social Justice, who organized protests after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, gave the city a list of seven demands to help end systemic racism and was meeting with city officials over their demands. The city council adopted a resolution supporting those demands and have moved to start forming a Police Citizens Review Board to meet one of those demands.
The group had been holding weekly Friday meetings to discuss progress on those demands but Hart abruptly ended those meetings in an email to the group Friday morning.
“Dale, Jeff, Wayne, and I do not plan to be part of any additional negotiation meetings,” Hart wrote. “I believe the purpose of those meetings was to fully understand the demands. We have had those discussions and council has taken action.”
Hart went on to say city staff would take over the planning and implementation of a police review board, saying a plan for community input would be released next week.
“We understand the urgency of this work, and intend to uphold our core practices of transparency and community input, while also moving as quickly as possible,” Hart said. “No community voices will be excluded.”
But the ASJ feels they are being cut out. One member replied with her frustration.
“We have not even gotten beyond the first of the demands and you are already calling it quits,” Amara Andrews wrote. “This is evidence that you do not at all seek to work with us. Rather, you are working with your trusted city groups/departments/committees and not the community voices that brought these issues to the forefront. It is a shame.”
City Council Member Ashley Vanorny also expressed disappointment in the end of talks.
“I think if “we” the city really mean that we are thankful for the ASJ bringing these 7 items to our attention and look forward to meeting with them, then we would have kept this meeting, as I intend to, to learn more about the work that this group of dedicated citizens has compiled,” Vanorny wrote.
Last Friday, the Advocates for Social Justice said they felt cut out of the planning and discussion of the police review board, particularly over who would sit on a task force to form it. The mayor told KCRG last Friday that everyone in the community would be included during those conversations. Both said they are researching the best practices around the country.
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