Des Moines BLM protesters march to councilman’s home to demand police reform



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Black Liberation Movement activists marched to the home of Des Moines Councilman Josh Mandelbaum on Saturday night to demand the city defund the police department, decriminalize marijuana, create a civilian board to investigate police complaints and launch a moratorium on evictions. 

It was the second time this month the group has marched to the home of a city council member. 

BLM activists said they will continue applying pressure on the city council, with the ultimate goal of defunding the police.

About 200 members of the group, formerly known as Black Lives Matter, joined the march from the Office Depot store on Ingersoll Avenue to Mandelbaum’s home. Marchers chanted slogans such as: “Ain’t no power like the power of the people, because the power of the people don’t stop.”

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Supporters of the Black Liberation Movement gathered to rally and march to the home of Des Moines City Councilman Josh Mandelbaum on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Des Moines.  (Photo: Bryon Houlgrave/The Register)

BLM activists said they will march to the homes of all city council members unless their demands are met.

“You cannot silence this movement,” said BLM organizer Matthew Bruce, 24, outside Mandelbaum’s home.

There was a lot of back and forth between demonstrators and Mandelbaum, who came outside his home once the crowd arrived. Mandelbaum told demonstrators he does not agree with completely eliminating the police department, but emphasized the need for certain reforms and accountability.

He suggested instead of police responding to mental health calls, trained social workers can respond. Mandelbaum cited a program called Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets, a mobile crisis intervention service utilized in Oregon.

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Des Moines City Councilman Josh Mandelbaum speaks with protesters of the Black Liberation Movement from his yard on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Des Moines.  (Photo: Bryon Houlgrave/The Register)

“I appreciate what they are doing. We’ve got problems in this country, and we’ve seen it over and over again,” Mandelbaum told the Register. “It’s important that people are out in the streets, that they’re pushing folks and demanding change.”

Mandelbaum said he is willing to work with activists on issues. He said decriminalizing cannabis is one of those issues where work can be done to get reforms passed.

However, demonstrators criticized Mandelbaum for not taking a strong enough stand against the Des Moines Police Department and pushing for more reform, citing the city council’s vote to approve nearly $100,000 in police ammunition. 

“We’re worried about (the police’s) authority to kill black people,” Bruce told  Mandelbaum.

The march, which started at 6 p.m. and lasted about two hours, ended with no incident with police.

Melody Mercado covers the eastern Des Moines metro for the Register. Reach her at [email protected] or Twitter @melodymercadotv

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