The Ames Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters were not deterred from fighting racial injustice by Wendy Wintersteen’s email.
Wintersteen sent an email to all Iowa State students informing them that Iowa State will now enforce COVID-19 safety policies for all social gatherings on and off campus at 2:58 p.m. Friday.
“Students who engage in irresponsible behavior, including attending large gatherings or parties that violate physical distancing and face covering rules, will be subject to university discipline, and could lead to suspension,” Wintersteen wrote in the email.
These policies include remaining six feet apart at all times and wearing a face covering.
Lynette Kwaw-Mensah, an Ames BLM organizer and Iowa State alumna, said she believes Wintersteen’s email discouraged some students from attending the protest today.
“I had friends who were messaging me saying that they wanted to come but the email scared them because, you know,” Kwaw-Mensah said. “It was too risky; some are international students who have other stuff to lose.”
Some students have said they didn’t see the email before arriving at the protest this evening.
Approximately 50 protesters were in attendance, and the event took place on the fifth night of the Ames BLM homecoming.
Before the march began, Poni Lejukole announced the rules of the protest:
Be COVID-19 conscious at all times.
Friends don’t let friends get arrested.
Understand the medic sign.
Understand the retreat sign.
Do not interact with the police.
At 5:30 p.m., they began to march on 6th Street towards University Boulevard.
They followed University Boulevard until South 4th Street where they turned around and marched back to Brookside Park. Two cars led the protesters and one followed.
During the march, Ames Police Department and ISU Police Department were following the protesters.
Among the issues discussed were the renaming of Catt Hall, the Iowa State professor who is facing scrutiny for her syllabus’ anti-racism policy and the timing of the email in relation to the protest today, when there had been demands to enforce these guidelines prior to "801 Day."
“[Wintersteen] isn’t acknowledging Black Lives Matter, and there is such a deep disparity in minority groups in Ames, and I wanted to show up and support,” said an Iowa State student who wished to remain anonymous.
Protesters marched and chanted “No justice, no peace” while walking down 6th Street. When they came to the intersection of Lincoln Way and Center Drive, they blocked traffic and took time to listen to Poni Lejukole speak.
“It doesn’t matter how small we are, it’s how loud," Lejukole said. "This is the energy we need.”
Police directed traffic away from the protesters despite not being asked for assistance.
The march lasted approximately one hour before the protesters returned to Brookside Park. Following the march, protesters were invited to grill, and local artist Colo Chanel gave a performance.
“I think they really felt our presence today,” Kwaw-Mensah said. “I’m really thankful for everyone that shows out because it just shows that we have people in our community that want to fight for equity and justice.”
Ames BLM will host a holistic healing event centered around mental health and the movement from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday.
The location will be announced on the Ames BLM Instagram page.