Des Moines rallies to support Ferguson community


by Kate Hayden The Simpsonian Web Director

When 20 year-old Dariana Donegan heard of the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown and the ensuing protests, she was moved to act.

“What’s going on in Ferguson, Missouri, that’s my hometown. My parents, my brothers, everybody lives five minutes away from where everything’s going on,” said the Des Moines rally organizer Donegan. “Since I couldn’t be there to support them I wanted to bring it to Des Moines, to stand in solidarity with my family, with my community.”

A small crowd gathered at the steps of the Capitol on Thursday evening. The names of men who died in violent incidents were read off, including Brown and Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, before a moment of silence was called. Simpson College senior Erica Barz attended.

“I thought it was a really good opportunity to show solidarity for what’s been happening,” said Barz. “Even though it doesn’t really affect me since I’m white, I wanted to show solidarity for what this community is going through.”

The Ferguson protests, which have continued since Brown’s death last Saturday, have been noted internationally for the unprecedented police response, which critics say is overly militarized and meant to intimidate, not control, the mostly unarmed and African American citizens. Police allege Brown was reaching for an officer’s gun during an argument when an officer shot him, but witnesses say Brown had his hands up and was surrendering at the time.

Snipers and SWAT officers patrolled streets in armored vehicles, using tear gas and rubber bullets to move protesters out of the way. After more violence and the unexplained arrests of reporters from the Washington Post and Huffington Post Wednesday night, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon relieved Ferguson police of their duty Thursday and installed Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson to lead security in the city.

Des Moines citizen Robert Johnson worked with Donegan to organize Thursday’s rally.

“I stand with the family down in Ferguson and with all those that we have lost this year and in year’s past,” said Johnson. “But most of all I came out in hopes that somebody would stand for me, if I was killed, if I was gunned down.”

“A lot of times, we focus on the symptom and not the root cause,” said rally speaker Ako Abdul-Samad. “We have to have a paradigm shift so that we can start having a solution to the symptom of violence rather than keep focusing on the violence.”

Mental health, ethnicity crimes, lack of education, poverty and sexism need to be solved before violence can be solved, said Abdul-Samad. He hopes those who attended the rally will find new ways to engage in a solution.

“What happened today was simple achievement. Now we have to have progress,” said Abdul-Samad.

Those who are interested can join the Stop the Violence Keep the Peace committee in Des Moines. The group meets 6 PM every Tuesday at Creative Visions, located at 1343 13th Street in Des Moines.

“We’ve made a tremendous impact on the city,” said Abdul-Samad.

As rally goers mingled and made introductions after the speeches, Donegan hopes she could educate those in attendance on violence’s impact.

“I just really wanted to honor the families of the lives lost,” she said.