Iowa Anti-Trump Protests Target I-80, Rastetter, Leath

CBS 2 Iowa/Twitter

On Friday, amid demonstrations across the country protesting Donald Trump’s shock victory and the bigotry he employed in his campaign for the presidency, more than 100 people spontaneously marched from downtown Iowa City to Interstate 80, blocking eastbound traffic there for close to half an hour. The act of civil disobedience, like the election whose results it protested, was divisive, with detractors criticizing it as dangerous and counterproductive. (We’ve editorialized before that such criticisms are predictable and, fair or not, often reductive.)

What struck me, as I hinted at in a tweet the next day, was that this was something I would expect to see in a big city like Minneapolis or Oakland but am less used to in Iowa. (In fact, on Thursday night, anti-Trump protesters in Minneapolis shut down I-94 to traffic in both directions, and demonstrators in Oakland similarly shut down I-580 as a handful of others, in fairly typical fashion, broke storefront windows and sprayed graffiti downtown.)

Apparently, considering the surprising number of retweets, the I-80 shutdown was striking to others as well. On the day the Register published its story, national reporters also picked up on the news, and on social media, some readers pointed to it as a reminder to help dispel the notion that major anti-Trump protests were confined to big cities and blue states. (Others noted, however, that Iowa City is a liberal college town with a long history of political activism.) If Trump’s selection of white nationalist sympathizer and alt-right news executive Steve Bannon as his chief strategist is any indication, protests over the anti-immigrant tensions Trump’s campaign has stoked aren’t likely to fade from view anytime soon — in New York, a former city traffic commissioner predicted four years of “Trumplock” in Midtown Manhattan caused by protests on the street outside the president-elect’s Trump Tower home.

In Iowa, there have already been several notable demonstrations in the days following Trump’s victory. Here’s a look at some of the others.

High school students stage walkouts

Across the Des Moines area Wednesday morning, hundreds of students reportedly walked out of classes in protest of the results of the previous night’s election. They expressed concerns that members of minority groups could be increasingly targeted by people emboldened by Trump’s rhetoric, as many reportedly already have been. On Friday, about 200 high school students in Iowa City also staged walkouts.

Protesters gather outside Iowa Capitol

On Thursday night, a crowd of about 250 mostly young people reportedly gathered at the steps of the state Capitol Building in downtown Des Moines to protest Trump, carrying gay pride flags and signs with messages including “Love Trumps Hate.”

ISU students demand accountability from President Leath

At Iowa State University, where a group of friends said they were targeted by students who yelled “Donald Trump, make America great again” and “Fuck you, niggers” out of their dorm windows on election night, students gathered Friday morning for a rally in a courtyard outside a campus building. From there, they marched to Beardshear Hall, where they confronted President Steven Leath and demanded that he take action against acts of bigotry on campus.

Activists call on Rastetter to renounce Trump

A group of about 50 Grinnell College students reportedly joined members of the progressive advocacy group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement for a Friday protest taking aim at Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter over his support for Trump. The protesters gathered in downtown Des Moines in the Greater Des Moines Partnership building, which also houses the Des Moines office of the Cultivation Corridor, an organization that advocates for investment and research in the Ames-to-Des Moines ag biosciences and technology sector. Rastetter, who at the time was in Bloomington, Minnesota, interviewing candidates to be the new president of the University of Northern Iowa, doesn’t have an office in the building, but his Alden-based Summit Agricultural Group is partnered with the organization. In a press release before the protest, ICCI said it would demand that “corporate ag kingpin” Rastetter, who was an ag policy adviser for the Trump campaign whose name has been floated as a possible choice for secretary of agriculture, “either renounce the hateful rhetoric of President Elect Trump or resign from his post with the Regents.”

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.