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June 23, 2020

Below is a statement that can be attributed to Rita Bettis Austen, ACLU of Iowa Legal Director.

It is regarding excessive force used on protestors in Des Moines last night, after the Des Moines City Council voted to approve reforms on police bias:

"We are in communication with eyewitnesses to the police actions last night. There are credible accounts of police action in violation of the constitutional guarantee of free speech, including "kettling" and the use of excessive force on nonviolent protesters including a child, media, and a legal observer.

We never forecast litigation plans, but obviously that's something that must be on the table for consideration at this point. It's clear to us that law enforcement leadership is failing to keep officers in line and communicate clearly to them that their role is to protect protesters' ability to exercise their free speech rights—not to punish protesters for challenging police brutality and racism.

The fact that these actions were inflicted on protestors who were encouraging city leaders to reform Des Moines policing only further confirms that fundamental change cannot wait.

In the meantime, we want to hear from city leadership that these actions are unacceptable and police will be held accountable."