At their Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020 meeting, the Iowa City City Council authorized an independent review of the June 3 protest incident that took place near the Interstate 80 interchange at N. Dubuque Street. The review will be conducted by the OIR Group of Playa Del Rey, California, and is expected to be completed within 90 days of its start date.
On June 1 and 2, 2020, a subset of individuals participating in local protests displayed escalating behavior that resulted in property damage, including significant damage to the Iowa City Police Department, City Hall, including the Iowa City Housing Authority, and city vehicles, as well as private property. Video linked below from June 2 shows the use of baseball bats to break doors and windows of the building, while uniformed and civilian employees remained inside working.
The escalating events of June 1 and June 2 prompted local, state, and federal law enforcement to bolster staffing and take extra precautionary measures, including the use of personal protective equipment, to prevent injury to public safety officers. On the evening of June 3, approximately 300-500 protestors began marching toward Interstate 80. The Iowa State Patrol, which has primary jurisdiction over the interstate, determined that access to the roadway should be prohibited out of safety concerns for protesters and the traveling public.
Law enforcement agencies, including the Iowa State Patrol, Iowa City Police Department, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, and the University of Iowa Police Department worked in a unified command structure to prevent access to the Interstate. Under this structure, law enforcement determined that the safest way to prevent access to Interstate 80 if voluntary compliance efforts were not successful, would be with the use of noise flash diversionary devices (aka flashbangs) and chemical munitions (i.e. OC – Pepper Spray Oleoresin Capsicum; CS – Ortho-Chlorobenzalmalononitrite; and SAF-SMOKE (purified terephilalic acid). The use of these devices was deemed by law enforcement a safer alternative than hands-on tactics where risk of injury was considered much higher for all involved.
Near the interstate, the Iowa State Patrol informed a small, initial group of protest organizers that access to the interstate would not be permitted, requested that they turn around, and noted failure to comply would result in chemical munitions being deployed. Subsequently, as the larger protest crowd approached, Iowa State Patrol issued a repeated dispersal order pursuant to Iowa State Code Section 723.2 and 723.3. This order came through an amplified public-address device from a squad car and was repeated several times as protestors approached while chanting. As protestors came within several feet of law enforcement personnel, and refused to disperse, Iowa State Patrol ordered the deployment of munitions. After an initial dispersing of the crowd, some protestors re-approached law enforcement. The targeted use of less lethal munitions, including pepperballs, was used to stop aggressive behavior and to prevent violence toward law enforcement officers. Additional use of chemical munitions were again deployed to disperse a portion of the crowd that was reemerging at the scene.
A total of nine members of the Iowa City Metro Special Rescue Team, which is an inter-agency group comprised of staff trained to navigate high-risk situations, consisting of personnel from the City of Iowa City and the University of Iowa Police Department, deployed munitions that evening. Linked below are the two body camera videos that have been referenced during recent City Council meetings.
The City will be working cooperatively with the OIR Group to complete a comprehensive review of this incident. The City expects the review will inform any needed policy changes and/or new approaches to similar situations that may arise in the future.
Actions taken by other law enforcement agencies are not subject to the independent review of this incident.
June 2 Videos – Protests at Iowa City City Hall
June 3 Videos – Protests near the I-80 Interchange on Dubuque Street