The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Iowa City Community Members Demand a Ceasefire in Palestine

December 9th at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City saw a couple dozen protesters demonstrate in support of the Palestinian people amid the mass killings of them perpetrated by the Israeli government. Palestinian flags were being flaunted along with several chants, posters and banners that contained slogans calling for a ceasefire on the Gaza Strip and an end to all the bombings. This has been just one of many protests in the Iowa City area, as many people have voiced how appalled they are with what clearly reveals itself to be a genocide, and the United States’ own involvement in it. The protests are the first step in trying to convince those in power to stop the senseless violence. 

At Kinnick, protesters chained themselves to entrance Gates D and F, which led into the upper decks of the stadium. They did so by using bicycle locks, and large rubber bands around their wrists with plastic tubes for protection. Their reasoning behind doing so in the pro-Palestinian protest was to barricade what they believed was a holiday party that University of Iowa president Barbara Wilson hosted for some of the school’s financial donors and partners.

Some of the university’s partners include Collins Aerospace, a subsidiary of RTX Corporation, and Lockheed Martin, both of whom are massive defense and weapons manufacturers. The companies work with the university’s engineering program to eventually hire graduates in their companies, while advancing their education in the field. The protesters believed that some representatives from these companies would be at the holiday party at Kinnick. 

Protesters barricading Gate F. Image via John Glab

The holiday party at Kinnick Stadium was held in a section of the Mediacom Outdoors Club deck, which occupies the second floor of the stadium, overlooking the field. The protesters’ goal was to disrupt this party, and to keep the donors from entering. However, the holiday party wasn’t for donors or corporate sponsors. It was for university staff members and their families. The party had several tables laid out with areas to decorate cookies, play with stuffed animals, interact with Herky, and a throne to tell Santa what they wanted as gifts. About a third of the attendees at the party were children who were engaging in all these activities with their parents. Instead of being a toast to some of the university’s controversial donors, it was just a relatively inconsequential holiday party. 

Along with this, protesters failed to actually barricade the entrances to keep people from entering. The large, cast-iron gates of the stadium were left open for people to walk through and access stairwells. Members of KRUI covering the protest were able to get behind the doors that the protesters chained themselves to. The party and any area of Kinnick was still easily accessible. The main entrance to the stadium was at the nearby bus terminal and was completely accessible. The demonstrators eventually realized this and marched up there with their banners, but did not make it too far before several squad cars rolled up on the scene.  

Inside of the holiday party. Image via Amman Hassan

When the University of Iowa Campus Police arrived, they initially stood watching the protesters. Eventually they responded swiftly and brutally to the protesters chained at Gate D. They seemed to have no care in harming the protesters chained to the doors, as they twisted their arms and wrists, even as they showed no resistance. One protester was crying out in agony to an officer who was twisting their wrist behind their back, but received no sympathy as the officer continued to use excessive force. Two other protesters were kneeled on as they were pressed into the pavement by officers while being detained. One other was seen being dragged away while in a limp position. This was all while protesters were peaceful, and not actually impeding entrances or safety exits. It appears as an unnecessary overreaction by campus police themselves. 

During the second set of arrests at Gate F, police were a lot more careful in removing those chained to the doors. This shift in behavior came after more phone cameras started recording their actions. Demonstrators were removed with the use of bolt cutters, and then zip-tied in handcuffs. Three other protesters were also there ready to give water and medical aid if need be. All three of the protesters acting as medics were doing the same thing, but the only non-white one of them seemed to be targeted and arrested. 

A protesters arm being twisted by police during arrest. Image via John Glab

Later in the evening after the demonstrators arrested were taken to the Johnson County jail, protesters sat outside in support of their fellow organizers. Charges given to the protesters included trespassing and impeding official proceedings, labeled a serious misdemeanor. Within the jail, some of the protesters were placed into solitary confinement, something typically unprecedented for non-violent crimes. Many were also denied medical care for their injuries sustained from being arrested. Along with this, protesters were also misgendered by being placed in the wrong gendered sections of the prison that didn’t correspond with their own identity. Outside, an observer was arrested without reason before being ordered by higher-ups in the police department to be let go. 

Below are documents of official statements from five of the nine protesters arrested, unedited and published in full. These were sent to KRUI by an organizer of the protest. 

Statement from Clara Reynen

Statement from Jenny Kula

Statement from Bellona Allou

Statement from Nix Slater-Scott

Statement from Kate Doolittle

The excessive actions by police in Iowa City, as seen with the response to the Kinnick protests, have been a noticeable trend. Many protesters who attended the demonstrations against Chloe Cole’s anti-trans lecture at the Iowa Memorial Union were arrested weeks later the event for similar crimes to those arrested at Kinnick, even though they were peaceful, non-violent and exercising their freedom of speech. Police also used tear gas and brutal force for many of the Black Lives Matter protests in the Summer of 2020. The trend seems to be a brutal crackdown on peaceful protests by the police themselves.  

A couple days later, on the night of December 12th, many showed up to the last city council meeting of the calendar year to speak out against the senseless killings and bombings of Palestinians by the Israeli government. The goal was to get Johnson County to call for a ceasefire in Gaza in hopes that if more counties did so, it would put pressure on the federal government to stop aiding Israel in their war. Over fifty people came to the meeting to express their support for the Palestinian people, and a call for a ceasefire.  

Community members who called for a ceasefire standing outside of City Hall. Image via Amman Hassan

Among the people who spoke were Palestinian Iowa City residents who gave detailed stories of their experiences living in both the West Bank and Gaza. These recollections included how the IDF would harass Palestinians. One story told of how an IDF soldier shot a Palestinian man unprovoked, and showed no remorse, even when the man’s family and neighbors were crying out in grief. Others pointed out the utter humanitarian crisis that has been inflicted on the people in Gaza by the Israeli government. Almost no access to drinkable water, no access to medical supplies, the death toll that rises from the bombings, and the immense suffering caused to civilians with these weapons of war were just a few of the things mentioned in the plea to the city council members.  

The scene at city hall was a strong showing of community. Those who came out were sick of the incessant violence and called for an end to it. They felt complacent in the genocide since they paid taxes which the United States government used to help support the Israeli bombings. With all this intense opposition to the Israeli government’s slaughter of Palestinian civilians, the Iowa City community hopes that city council listens to their constituency and calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.

This article was written with aid from Amman Hassan.