The Des Moines Capitol sidewalks were scattered with chalk messages such as “Black Lives Matter,” dusting the legs of police brutality protestors who took a knee in solidarity of George Floyd.
Floyd was a 46-year-old Black man who was asphyxiated by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Protests on June 1 at the Des Moines Capitol building proceeded without violence, but not without anger, as hundreds of people shouted, “No Justice, No Peace” on the Capitol steps.
Merely one day ago at the Merle Hay Mall, many protesters were met with tear gas and rubber bullets. Today, protesters encouraged each other to not get involved in violent activity. Some were talking with police officers at the location and state patrol officers watched the protest from a distance at the Capitol doors, while a seemingly unmarked helicopter and drone cut through the air above unbothered.
A group of mainly white men tried to start the chant, “No police unions” unsuccessfully, leaving crowd members unprovoked.
“Do not make [law enforcement] angry. All they want is a reason,” shouted Alexis Haley, Drake University student. She warned the crowd of the possibility of the presence of undercover police officers.
Haley wore a black T-shirt that read, “This shade of black I’m wearing really brings out the color of my soul." She stood at the center of the crowd of protestors, leading chants and talking to those around her.
“I can’t take this off," Haley said as she gestured to the Black skin on her bare arms and shouted to the crowd. "I can’t take this off. Police officers, y'all can take y’all's shit off. Y’all get to take off after all of this, the riot gear, the vest, the pants, all of it goes. I can’t take this off. None of us can. So, allies, be a freaking ally.”
The crowd roared with cheers and clapping and signs that had begun to droop found their way back up, plastering a wall of cardboard against the downtown Des Moines skyline.
“Say her name!”
“Say his name!”
The shouts continued to honor Black people who had died from police brutality. Many in the crowd slowly dispersed to avoid breaking the curfew set in place for Polk County from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Many continued to protest after curfew.
On the outskirts of the protest was E.J. Holiday, a 17-year-old Roosevelt High School student. Holiday attended all of the Des Moines area protests against police brutality and was among those that were tear gassed at Merle Hay Mall the day before.
“I’ve been [to protests] every day,” Holiday said. “[Merle Hay] was crazy. It went from peaceful protesting to just getting pepper sprayed. I couldn’t believe law enforcement pulled up that deep and just started pepper spraying. I got there and within 15 minutes the first cop showed up, and 20 more followed, and that’s when [more law enforcement] cars came.”
Holiday said he was not intimidated to come back again tonight and protest for what he believes in.
“I feel like we need a change,” Holiday said. “So much has happened that Black men don’t get the opportunities, the same chances, as white men. And it’s time for that to stop for the younger children under us.”