EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to include statements from a protest organizer
DES MOINES, Iowa — Des Moines police say officers were assaulted by Black Lives Matter protesters at the State Capitol on Wednesday and now more than a dozen of those protesters have been arrested. However, members of the BLM group say it was the police who incited the violence.
Sergeant Paul Parizek with the Des Moines Police Department says officers went to the Capitol around 1:00 pm on Wednesday afternoon hoping to find suspects wanted on outstanding charges for a protest that lead to the destruction of a police vehicle last month. Three of the suspects police were looking for were taken into custody peacefully as they protested inside the building.
But as officers transported the suspects to their vehicles outside, another group of protesters intervened. That is when Parizek says things turned violent.
“It’s probably one of the more violent assaults on police officers I’ve seen in a long time,” Parizek said, “These cops were tackled to the ground, they were yanked on. At one point one of the officers was tackled from behind and put into a choke hold. (He) was wrestled to the ground and in that struggle he had his gun knocked free from his holster.” That officer was able to recover his gun, Parizek says.
At least 18 people were arrested at the scene and are now facing charges including Assault and Disarming a Police Officer, according to Parizek.
One of the organizers of the event say Parizek’s version of the events is not true. WHO 13 spoke to an organizer named Julian who says police were the aggressors.
“We had two protesters recording documenting everything happening,” Julian tells WHO 13. “An officer strikes at one of the protesters and then things escalate by officers tackling two of the protesters dragging one of them.” Julian says protesters then tried to “de-arrest” the two people who were on the ground.
Julian says one protester was violently thrown into a van, striking her head and causing a concussion. He says protesters were caught in a difficult situation and acted to stop what they saw as illegal action by police.
“Do you just stand by and watch and record? Or do you do something about it and so it does need to come into the conversation about how do we hold officers who are manhandling and abusing their power and assaulting civilians. It goes into that conversation what can you do?,” Julian said.
Parizek says he has attended protest training sessions and knows that protesters have been instructed to never physically touch an officer. Parizek says once someone is in custody it is up to the court system to take the next steps.
Video of the clash provided to WHO 13 clearly shows a large crowd physically interacting with officers. WHO 13 offered numerous BLM Des Moines members the opportunity to speak on camera about the incident. None agreed to do so.
Protesters have taken to the streets dozens of times in recent weeks, calling for changes to policing and the criminal justice system in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Floyd was killed when a former Minneapolis officer knelt on his neck while in custody for nearly nine minutes. Four former officers are facing murder charges for their alleged roles in Floyd’s death.
“This was way above and beyond anything that is acceptable. It is certainly not associated with protest. If you’re going to start assaulting police officers and you’re going to start assaulting other people, we’re going to start arresting people and we’ll arrest everyone if we have to.”
Julian says police need to look at their own actions today.
“The police escalated everything that happened the police antagonized the police are the reason everything went down today they should take fault for everything and take responsibility for everything that has happened,” Julian said.
UPDATE: Des Moines Police have released a preliminary list of those arrested today at the State Capitol:
- Indira Sheumaker, 26 years old – Charged with Assault On A Police Officer With Serious Injury, Assault On A Police Officer, Disorderly Conduct, Interference With Official Acts With Injury, and Criminal Mischief – 1st Degree (Hy Vee incident)
- Clayton Stein, 18 years old – Charged with Assault On A Police Officer With Serious Injury, Interference With Official Acts With Injury, Disarming A Police Officer, Disorderly Conduct.
- Matthew Bruce, 24 years old – Charged with Assault On A Police Officer (2 counts), Interference With Official Acts With Injury, Disorderly Conduct.
- Bradley Penna, 31 years old – Charged with Assault On A Police Officer Causing Injury.
- Giovonni Bahena, 22 years old – Charged with Assault On A Police Officer, Disorderly Conduct.
- Anna Gebhardt, 29 years old – Charged with Assault On A Police Officer Causing Injury.
- Brandi Ramus (adult – no age available at this time) – Charged with Interference With Official Acts.
- Alexandria Dea, 26 years old – Charged with Interference With Official Acts.
- Louise Bequeaith, 19 years old – Charged with Disorderly Conduct.
- Eva Lewin, 24 years old – Charged with Assault On A Police Officer Causing Injury, Assault On A Police Officer, Disorderly Conduct.
- Jennifer Erwin, 36 years old – Charged with Assault On A Police Officer Causing Injury.
- Kirk Johnson, 50 years old – Charged with Interference With Official Acts Causing Injury, ResistingArrest.
- Jalesha Johnson, 21 years old – Charged with Interference With Official Acts.
- Jasmine Johnson, 19 years old – Charged with Criminal Mischief – 1st Degree (Hy Vee incident)
- Lashon Winfield, 22 years old – Charged with Criminal Mischief – 1st Degree (Hy Vee incident)
Police say more arrests may be announced after suspects are processed. Two juveniles were also arrested.