Cedar Rapids climate change protest condemned by civil rights, progressive organization

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -- There is fallout following a democratic event at NewBo City Market on Sunday.

Around a dozen presidential candidates where at NewBo as part of an event being put on by Progress Iowa. Also in attendance, on a public sidewalk, were protesters with Bold Iowa, a climate activist group, that some are accusing of using racist imagery to get their point across.

The organizer of the protest is former democratic state representative Ed Fallon, who now is the self proclaimed "Agitator in Chief" of Bold Iowa.

Fallon says all he and participants were trying to do was grab the attention of those running for president about their concern for climate change. How they did that was captured in photographs sent to the I9 investigative team that show people with nooses around their necks standing on top of blocks of ice.

"We were kind of surprised and disappointed that our message did offend people," said Fallon. "Apologies to anybody who did take offense."

Fallon says their demonstration was a metaphor about what he believes to be the current state of affairs concerning climate change.

NAACP Cedar Rapids Branch President Dedric Doolin says Bold Iowa's message was lost on many in the African-American community, some of which he says asked his office to investigate the incident.

"From an NAACP stand point it was not a good thing," said Doolin. "It was not the way to get the message across."

Doolin says he spoke with Fallon about the protest Monday to express his disapproval with what took place and make it clear, that form his point of view, using nooses to evoke a response, no matter what the issue, is unacceptable.

Fallon says his group held a protest in Ankeny on Saturday that also used nooses but will not being doing it again.

Doolin says he is concerned similar protests are being held nationwide by other groups and says he plans to ask his national office to investigate. I9 found reports of a similar climate change protest taking place days ago in Germany.

NewBo City Market's Executive Director sent I9 the following statement over the protest:

"Yesterday, there was a demonstration orchestrated on the public sidewalks outside of NewBo City Market during the Progress Iowa Corn Feed Presidential Candidate events. The demonstration was intended to bring awareness of climate change by having people standing on blocks of ice with hangman's nooses around their necks.

We saw the protest and we were equally disgusted by it. It was staged by a group unaffiliated with the Market or Progress Iowa and conducted outside of the Market property. As it was a political demonstration on a public sidewalk, it was protected speech and there was nothing we, the event organizers, or CRPD could have done to stop it.

We share the outrage of many in the community at this use of a racist symbol. Whatever point this group was trying to make was completely lost because of they way they presented themselves.

The demonstration was staged by Ed Fallon and Bold Iowa. Fallon's contact number (from his website) is 515-238-6404. Both Fallon and Bold Iowa are on Facebook."

Matt Sinovic, Executive Director of Progress Iowa, sent I9 the following statement over the incident:

"The protest held by Bold Iowa outside of our event yesterday had absolutely nothing to do with Progress Iowa or NewBo City Market. No matter what message they were trying to send, the way they did it was offensive, disturbing, and inappropriate."