The Iowa impact of George Floyd’s murder

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DES MOINES, Iowa– Tuesday marks a year since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, was convicted of second-degree murder after he was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

Floyd’s death and a cell phone video sparked unrest and a call to action both nationwide and in Iowa. 

There have been three key pieces of legislation in the state that are directly linked to George Floyd’s murder.

First, the More Perfect Union Act, a bill that was passed last June with bipartisan support. This bill enforced harsher penalties for law enforcement who perform serious misconduct and requires annual implicit bias and de-escalation training for officers and bans chokeholds. 

The second, felon voting rights, which restores a felon’s right to cast a ballot. This impacted up to 45,000 Iowans within the last year. 

The most recent piece of legislation to pass in the Iowa Senate was the Back the Blue bill. The Back the Blue bill elevates penalties for protesters who assault police officers and offers more legal protection to law enforcement. 

Well-known activist, Representative Ako Abdul Samad, played a key role in passing the More Perfect Union act and restoring felon voting rights.

Rep. Samad said it’s important to note that these accomplishments were made possible by a group effort from the community. 

“Those people who wrote the governor, who called the governor, who worked with the NAACP,  who worked with Black Lives Matter and the Black Liberation Movement, who worked in the house and met,” Rep. Samad said. “All that together was able to help us to accomplish some things. Separately, we can’t do it.” 

Another impact in Iowa following the death of George Floyd was the emergence of local activists and organizations fighting for justice and equality.

An example of this is the Black Liberation Movement, which organized the first protest in Des Moines and rallied at the capitol for Governor Reynolds to restore felon voting rights. 

After the first couple of protests in Des Moines, born and raised Iowan, Justyn Lewis, founded the nonprofit, Des Moines Selma. The mission of Des Moines Selma is to educate Iowans about the Black experience.

“Selma realizes that we are still very much segregated in our communities and even in the way that we see each other. So it’s important that we have these tough conversations, time and time again,” Lewis said. “So that we can position ourselves to be able to not do harm to other people because of our lack of knowledge of someone else’s lived reality.” 

The nonprofit, No Justice No Peace, will hold a George Floyd Memorial and Solidarity Rally at Sculpture Park that starts at 6:00 p.m. 

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