'Back the Black' Rally Draws Hundreds to Protest Police Violence, Demand Change

Speakers at the 'Back the Black' rally criticized Des Moines police and city officials while uplifting the names of recent high-profile police shooting victims.

Jaylen Cavil, chair of the advocacy department of the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement, standing before a crowd Saturday at Des Moines City Hall. Photo by Black Iowa News.

“So when I say, ‘say his name,’ I want y’all to say, Daunte Wright,” said Jaylen Cavil, chair of the advocacy department of the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement, standing before a crowd Saturday at Des Moines City Hall.

“Say his name,” he yelled.

“Daunte Wright!” hundreds of protesters yelled back. A drumbeat punctuated their words.

They chanted Wright’s name 10 times.

They gathered at city hall for the “Back the Black” rally. Thousands of people across the country Saturday attended rallies in support of the victims of police violence.

Protesters said the names of the recent victims of high-profile police shootings: Wright, 20, Brooklyn Center, Minnesota; Adam Toledo, 13, Chicago, Illinois, and Anthony Thompson Jr, 17, Knoxville, Tennessee.

Activists at the rally handed out a list of demands.

  • Terminate all racists.

  • Legalize and decriminalize cannabis.

  • Defund and abolish the police.

Activists heavily criticized police and city officials. They said city officials don’t want to listen to activists at council meetings. They decried the police handling of a chase with Diaa Kafi, a 42-year old Des Moines man who jumped into the Des Moines River last month while fleeing police, according to news reports. His body was found a week ago and was recently identified, according to KCCI-TV.

The rally comes as Iowa legislators are working to increase penalties for protesters and add protections for police officers in ‘Back the Blue.’ Activists’ criticisms also come at a time when the Des Moines police department is under fire for its support of a sergeant who was disciplined for excessive force but who conducts de-escalation training for the department.

Activists also called for the firing of Des Moines police officers with “violent records,” Scott Sanders, the city manager, and Dana Wingert, police chief.

“Hey, hey. Ho, ho. These racist cops have got to go,” protesters chanted repeatedly.

A drone hovered above the rally. After about an hour, protesters headed east and marched toward the Iowa Capitol, before turning back and ending at the police department.

Editor’s note: The Des Moines Black Liberation Movement on social media asked attendees prior to the rally not to photograph or videotape the faces of protesters because “police target our movement.” Therefore, Black Iowa News intentionally documented the event in a manner that minimized the recording of faces.

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