DES MOINES, Iowa — Des Moines police used tear gas once again to break up a protest at the Iowa State Capitol Monday night.
It was the fourth straight day of protests in Des Moines in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Fifty-one adults and 13 juveniles were arrested in connection with the protest Monday night, according to Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek. Most face charges of failure to disperse or interference with official acts.
Stephan Bayens, the commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety, said the protest reached a tipping point around 11:30 p.m. after some protesters were throwing objects at officers. Bayens said officers gave protesters multiple warnings that they needed to disperse. It was also past the 9 p.m. curfew in effect for Polk County. When protesters did not leave the Capitol, police shot tear gas, threw flash bangs and began pepper-spraying people.
“It was chaotic. It was just absolute chaos,” said Gabrielle Cronbaugh, who traveled from Iowa City to take part in the demonstrations.
Cronbaugh said she witnessed at least one person throw something at police during the protest, but she said other protesters told that person to leave. “We were begging people to not throw anything the whole night,” said Cronbaugh.
Cronbaugh said she never heard a warning from police to disperse over the clamor of the protest. She ended up getting pepper-sprayed as she ran away to her car after police deployed the tear gas.
Cronbaugh’s cousin, who had attended the protest with her, had already gone back to the car once tensions began to escalate at the protest.
“I got into [my car] and I said you need to drive. I can’t drive. I can’t see. I’ve been maced,” said Cronbaugh. “She is 17 years old and she doesn’t know how to drive yet, so she kind of panicked. She couldn’t get the car started. An officer came up to my door and tried opening it. I closed it and I tried locking it, but I couldn’t see so it was hard. Four more officers came up and opened my door, hauled me out, threw me on the ground, zip-tied me, and then they did the same thing to her.”
Despite getting pepper-sprayed and spending the night in jail, Cronbaugh said she would do it all over again.
“I would definitely do it again because I believe in this cause. I think that it’s very important that we get the message across that we are not going to put up with any kind of racism anymore in this country,” said Cronbaugh.
Gov. Kim Reynolds has commended protesters for using their rights to assemble and push for change, but she said violence will never be tolerated.
“There a dichotomy that is happening right now. You have those that want to peacefully protest and have every right to do that. And then you have hateful individuals that want to take advantage of what is happening and cause chaos. They are hijacking the message. They are not helping us move forward, and it’s just not going to be tolerated,” said Reynolds.