DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Black Lives Matter protesters rallied inside the Iowa Capitol on Wednesday, shouting “I can’t breath” and “Justice now” in an effort to convince lawmakers and the governor to take action on the issue of racial inequality.
About two dozen protesters peacefully gathered in the public space between the main entrances of the House and Senate. At one point, protesters banged on Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office door, and a few later spoke with her staff about how to schedule a meeting.
“That’s all they got left is to hide from us. All they got left is their bureaucracy,” said Matthew Bruce, the local group’s leader. “This is a disaster. This is a complete disaster for the state of Iowa, for the Republican Party, the party of Kim Reynolds. For the Democrats too, because I don’t see them here. They could be right here on this door trying to fight with us.”
Bruce said that if he were to speak with Reynolds, he would tell her to sign an executive order to reinstate voting rights for felons who have completed their sentences.
“She could do that. Like right today, she could do that. That’s what I would bring up, something she could do today,” he said.
Sen. Brad Zaun, an Urbandale Republican, met with Bruce and promised to work on issues the group raised.
“I’m sick and tired of lip service,” Zaun told Bruce. “I’m more interested in solving problems with some of the injustices going on. I’m open-minded, but I’m just one senator.”
While Reynolds didn’t meet with the group Wednesday, she said she has met with community leaders and lawmakers on potential legislation that could be passed this year.
“I made it very clear I’m committed to sitting down and having conversation, most importantly listening and talking about what we need to do to continue to move forward,” she said.
Democrats and advocates for minority groups have proposed a package of legislation that includes banning police from using chokeholds and making it difficult for police officers with bad records to get hired by another force.
Reynolds has asked lawmakers to begin the lengthy process of passing a constitutional amendment to restore ex-felons’ voting rights. Republican senators insisted that the Legislature first approve a law requiring restitution to victims before the restoration of voting rights. Reynolds signed that bill last Thursday.
The constitutional amendment is eligible for debate but hasn’t yet passed in the Senate.