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In contrast to Des Moines arrests, Occupy Iowa City carries on peacefully

BY KRISTEN EAST AND DORA GROTE | OCTOBER 11, 2011 7:20 AM

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The difference between Occupy Iowa City and Occupy Des Moines is stark.

In Des Moines, about 30 demonstrators were arrested Sunday night and more than a few have alleged police brutality.

Here, though, anti-corproate protesters in College Green Park have carried on entirely peacefully.

Iowa City police are even lending the event overnight protection.

Iowa City police officers have no plans to arrest demonstrators and officials told The Daily Iowan they will monitor the demonstration to protect protesters.

Robert Schueler, who has been demonstrating at Occupy Iowa City since Friday night, said the Occupy Iowa City protesters have a positive relationship with local police.

"They've been absolutely wonderful," Schueler said. "I wish they would come by more, talk, and be a part of this. Don't be an outsider when you can be an insider."

Meanwhile, University of Iowa alum Shawn Gude — a Des Moines occupier and former Daily Iowan reporter and editor — was one of the 32 arrested near the Statehouse on Sunday. State troopers reportedly told demonstrators to vacate the Capitol by 11 p.m. When protestors stayed, officers started arresting.

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A video recorded at the scene shows a handful of state officers handcuffing and dragging Gude. He said the troopers did not handle the situation very well in Des Moines. Some protesters complained about pepper spray and said they got bloody knees from being dragged by officers.

But Gude maintained the protesters were nonviolent in their actions and were only exercising their rights.

"I was surprised and infuriated that the police would use those type of tactics against our type of group," he said. "The cops should have backed down. They didn't have any Constitutional grounds to do what they did."

Although the protesters argue they were well within their First Amendment rights, a UI professor disagreed.

Lyombe Eko, UI associate professor of journalism and mass communication, said the State Patrol did not violate the First Amendment rights of protesters. He said courts have given the government the right to restrict where and when demonstrators voice their message.

"The main instrument of order in a democracy is the time, the place, and the manner of regulations," Eko said. "Those are the legal restrictions."

Gov. Terry Branstad defended the State Patrol officers and said protesters were not within their rights because they were on state property.

"My feeling is I think it's all right to have a demonstration here at the Capitol, but it's not meant to be a place to camp out overnight," Branstad said at his weekly news conference on Monday, according to the Des Moines Register.

Cora Metrick-Chen, who helped facilitate the Occupy Iowa general assembly, said protesters were faced with opposition before making their message clear. In contrast, she said Occupy Iowa City felt like a utopian community with occupants giving surplus food to the homeless, giving first-aid lessons, and conversing with people about their ideas.

"This is how [Occupy Iowa] could have been if the city would have let it happen … It is very unfortunate that it was prevented from happening," Metrick-Chen said.


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