After a summer filled with public activism on racial justice issues following George Floyd’s murder, an Iowa Senate subcommittee on Tuesday advanced a wide-ranging law enforcement protections bill meant to clamp down on future protests.
“I think we all know that over the past several months, law enforcement here in Iowa and around the country have been subjected to some unusually difficult circumstances. This is a bill to try to extend protections to our law enforcement,” Sen. Julian Garrett said on a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, with Republican Sen. Dave Dawson and Democratic Sen. Kevin Kinney. The legislation advanced 3-0.
The bill increases penalties for riots, harassment, disorderly conduct and assaults, allows law enforcement to sue if they’ve been injured, provides immunity from civil liability for drivers of vehicles who in some circumstances injure someone unlawfully blocking traffic and provides for a holding period of 24 hours if a person is arrested rioting, among other provisions.
The legislation comes after thousands across Iowa protested George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin will be on trial next week in Hennepin County, Minnesota.
“I particularly appreciate some of the rioting provisions in here from what we saw across the state this last summer,” said Dawson. “I think this is a good bill.”
Kinney said he supported the bill without any further remarks.
Keenan Crow, the director of policy and advocacy at the LGBTQ advocacy group One Iowa, questioned the legislation’s fairness. Crow joined the protests over the summer.
“Put yourself in the position of one of these protesters. They show up to a demonstration because they care deeply about their community and they want to make a difference, and in the midst of their march they’re hit with a vehicle and incur serious injuries … and are racking up medical expenses. How are they going to recover such expenses? Under such proposal, they’re just out of luck?” Crow said.
“Their primary crime here is caring enough to speak out on something that they care about, and we’re going to tell them they can’t recover reasonable damages from someone who failed to maintain control of their vehicle? That doesn’t seem fair to me.”
Much of the bill is based on the Governor’s policing proposal, Garrett noted. Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed a criminal justice bill in early February that combines her police officer accountability law with additional law enforcement protections.
“We’re also deeply disappointed to see that out of the Governor’s policing bill, the only bits that have been run are the bits that give police additional protections from liability and the bits that increase penalties for protesters. What we haven’t seen was the one component that we actually supported—which was the ban on racial profiling,” Crow said.
by Isabella Murray
Iowa Starting Line is an independently owned progressive news outlet devoted to providing unique, insightful coverage on Iowa news and politics. We need reader support to continue operating — please donate here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more coverage.