The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Interview: Laura Bergus on Authoritarianism in Iowa

Interview was conducted on February 8th of 2024, and has been edited for clarity.

Many have identified an alarming trend in the local and state government: authoritarianism in Iowa. What many thought to be relegated to distant, dystopian countries has found its way here. This has been after numerous laws and legislation have been passed that target minority groups, including transgender people, and punish people for their dissent. 

Lawyer, and Iowa City city council member Laura Bergus, along with V Fixmer-Oraiz, a Johnson County supervisor, both wrote on this direction that the Iowa government has been taken in an op-ed published in the Little Village magazine. There, they talked about Iowa’s Back the Blue Laws, and how they gave police officers more immunity, while limiting the power of protesters. The laws made it criminal to engage in common protest activities like blocking the street. 

These laws came into effect when seven protesters were charged at Chloe Cole’s speech in the Iowa Memorial Union in October of 2023. All seven identified as trans. This targeting of trans people both in the legislator and on the streets, along with the laws designed to quell dissent has shown the Iowa government’s more restrictive and authoritarian actions. 

In this interview, Laura Bergus elaborates on the authoritarian practices of the Iowa government. She points out the signs of authoritarianism in other places and correlates them to what is happening in the state. She also details the goals of recent legislation, why trans people are being targeted, and some steps to be taken to push back against this trend.