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Democrats react to signing of “Back the Blue” bill

DES MOINES — Nearly all Democrats in the legislature voted against a bill signed on Thursday by Republican Governor Kim Reynolds that establishes tougher penalties for rioting and protests that block pedestrian or vehicle traffic, arguing the penalties in the bill were too harsh and that the GOP had turned its back on racial justice efforts.

Representative Ruth Ann Gaines of Des Moines, a member of the House Black Caucus, says the bill sends the wrong message to people of color and young people.  “Iowa is beginning to be looked at around the country as a state that is going backwards,” Gaines says, “…sending out a message that Iowa is not a welcoming state.”

Representative Ross Wilburn of Ames, the first black Iowan to be chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, says the governor’s approval of this bill is a giant step backwards.  “She gave into the prejudice within her own party,” Wilburn says, “and we want to live up to our civil rights history here in Iowa and be a role model for the rest of the country for meaningful change surrounding our criminal justice system.”

Reynolds had asked the Republican-led legislature to include proposals to track data from traffic stops and ban racial profiling in the bill, but those were left out. Reynolds says she will offer a stand-alone bill in 2022 to accomplish those goals.

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