BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
KEOKUK – A small black child gave a high-five to a Keokuk Police officer to wrap up a peaceful protest Monday night that ended in front of the Keokuk Police Department.
The march was organized by Davion McGhee of Keokuk and included about 40 men, women and children, black and white. It ended the way it started, unlike many episodes of violence in the nation over the past week, with handshakes and high fives between protestors and law enforcement.
McGhee said she insisted that the march be peaceful in protest, because racism continues to tilt the balance of justice in America.
“We want everyone to go home safe and sound,” McGhee said as members of the protest chanted “No Justice – No Peace, No racist police”
“I’ve lived here for four years with my family and we’re trying to start a new life. And ever since we’ve been here we’ve encountered racist people, including police officers, and for what, just the color of our skin?” I just thought we needed to be heard.”
McGhee said she was in Wal-Mart in Keokuk earlier in the afternoon and heard that they were thinking of closing due to rioting.
She said she went up to store employees and told them the protest she was organizing was going to be a peaceful protest. Wal-Marts around the region closed up stores early and piled pallets in front of doors as unsubstantiated rumors of widespread vandalism were being planned in the area.
Hy-Vee’s in Fort Madison and Keokuk closed at 8 p.m., In Fort Madison, Walgreens’ also closed at 8 p.m. and McDonalds was closed early.
“I stopped and told them that there wasn’t going to be any riot at all. That it was a peaceful protest. We came down here for George Floyd because that was injustice, and he still needs justice.”
Floyd died May 25 as a result of a injuries sustained after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, pinned him to the ground and held his knee to Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd was accused of trying to pass a fake $20 bill at a nearby market.
A coroner’s report out of Hennipen County in Minnesota showed the 46-year old from St. Louis died of cardiac arrest complicated by neck compression. The report also noted other underlying health conditions, fentanyl intoxication, and recent meth use.
Chauvin is being charged with 3rd-degree murder and manslaughter. He, along with three other officers at the scene were fired after an investigation by the Minneapolis Police Department.
McGhee said the march was different than the rioting that is dominating national news cycles.
“What do you see here? We are laughing, smiling and having a good time. You don’t hear anything about us breaking anything,” she said. “What they are doing is rioting, this is a protest and this is just so we can be heard.”
Keokuk Police Officer Scott Kindig was one of eight officers from the department to come out and and greet the protesters. Several of the officers kneeled with the group while a couple protestors laid on the ground with their hands behind their backs representative of Floyd’s arrest.
Kindig said the Floyd incident was handled wrong, but the group in front of him was handling things right.
“We support this group 100%,” Kindig said as the protest wound down. “I’m just glad they handled it the way they did. They’re doing it right. The way things were handled with that man was just wrong.”
Officers stayed outside shaking hands and talking with protestors following the event.
Sophie Ravenscraft, a 20-year-old in the protest from Lomax, Ill., said she was there supporting her friends.
“I have a lot of African-American friends and I”m just tired of them feeling so oppressed from a judicial system that is totally warped,” she said.
“I don’t think the current state of government and the system is correct or just. And I think coming out here and showing support for not only them, but the whole group is very important.
Ravenscraft said the Keokuk Police officers and several sheriff’s deputies were on scene during the march, but they are were very polite.
“There was only an intention here to keep this peaceful. It proves the point. It does no good to be violent towards people at this point.”
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds address protests across the state at her daily COVID-19 press conference Tuesday.
“Hundreds of people gathered in communities across the state in peaceful protest to speak their mind and have their voices heard. Thank you to all of those who exercised their right to protest in a peaceful and responsible way,” Reynolds said.
“I again want to thank community leaders and law enforcement on the front lines working so hard to establish and maintain a dialogue and prevent violence allowing peaceful protests to take place.”
The Fort Madison City Council has been alerted to a possible protest in front of Council Chambers Tuesday evening, but nothing official has been released to the media about the event. There is also a protest planned to take place in front of the Burlington Police Department today as well.