SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — After the death of George Floyd sparked nation-wide protests last year, the Iowa house of representatives passed a “Back the Blue” bill package.
Part of that bill would change the charge of rioting from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Monique Scarlett is the founder of Unity in the Community, an organization aimed to embrace relationships between law enforcement and citizens.
“I am not for rioting and destroying property at all but I am all for peaceful protests that bring forth the message that needs to be heard,” Scarlett said.
The bill has several critics who say it could penalize Iowans for exercising their first amendment rights.
“I believe that politicians need to really check their motives. Why are we sending some of these things to the senate. It just makes no sense. There is ulterior motives in some of this// and that’s why you have some people upset.”
The Iowa Division of the American Civil Liberties Union also disagrees with the bill, saying, “its a slap in the face.”
“The legislature promised to do something about social justice and criminal justice and instead we see this policing bill that’s really a slap in the face, that goes against all those principles that instead, keeps penalties upon protestors, on people who are trying to speak out against social justice and then also gives police broad new powers with less accountability.
Local officers say having communication between police and protestors is key. The Sioux City Police Department suggests reaching out to them before planning a local protest.
“We respect and support people’s first amendment rights and last year was important because a lot of people wanted to voice a lot of frustrations and wanted to make their voices heard so they could help progress police reform and see changes in their community and so we took it as an opportunity to really listen.”