The People’s History:  A Study of the 2020 Protests in Des Moines

Volume 1 Is Done

After more than 2 years of research, data collection, and interviews of protestors, our study of the 2020 protests that happened in Des Moines is complete.  Volume 1 is a collection of new and previously published essays/interviews of protestors as well as data and national research on protesting in America. There is a lot to learn and we’re sharing it with the residents of Des Moines and the world. Our hope is that in the future policing will be non-violent, more just, and free from unwarranted harm, and racially-biased outcomes.Just Voices 2020 Protest Booklet Cover Image Only


Why Do This Research?

While Just Voices has been working to reshape policing and public safety in Des Moines and across the state for many years, we made it a priority to study the summer of 2020. Why? Because the militarized response of the police must never be allowed to happen again. So rather than give in to injustice, we chose to use our voice as storytellers and apply our research tools to shine a spotlight on what happened that summer. We sought to answer questions like:



  • Whether the Des Moines Police Department response was proportionate to the incidents.
  • Was DMPD response proportionate to the incidents?
  • Was DMPD response consistent with best police practices?
  • How was force used on protestors?
  • What was the outcome of the hundreds of arrests?
  • Were arrests of Black and Brown residents disproportionate per our city’s racial makeup and that of protesters?
  • Was the use-of-force in line with national standards and best practices?
  • What did protesters experience?

In Des Moines, we know over 40 identifiable demonstrations occurred in and around our city.  By the end of September 2020, 208 people had been charged with 281 separate protest-related offenses according to Just Voices independent research. What’s striking is the majority of those charges have since been dismissed and most people accused and did go to trial were found not guilty by jury or judge. As of March 2024, multiple lawsuits  filed against the City of Des Moines about police misconduct during the protests are still pending.


If You’re Reading the Printed Version of “The People’s History”

We printed a limited number of copies of “The People’s History – Volume 1”. If you have one, links to related online information contained in the printed publication are listed below in order of appearance :

21st Century Policing Study of Des Moines Police (link on p. 6)

The U.S. Crisis Monitor (link on p. 10)

Rethinking the Police Response to Mass Demonstrations (link on p. 23)

View video coverage of protest by KCCI-TV (Des Moines, Iowa) (link on p. 31)

See Andrea’ Sahouri’s Twitter Feed from the protest  (link on p. 33)

Video footage from Blazing Saddle Surveillance (link on p. 39)

Blazing Saddle owner describes DMPD Force (link on p. 40)

Sgt. Paul Parizek comments on Blazing Saddle incident (link on p. 40)

Des Moines Register story on Blazing Saddle Arrests (link on p. 41)

Video of stand-off with Des Moines Police – Zach Humble essay (link on p. 53) 

2023 Actions in Review by Just Voices Iowa (link on p. 71)

Giving a donation to Just Voices Iowa (link on p. 71)

Previously Published Essay Series in Black Iowa News

Staring in September 2022 and continuing on, we have been releasing our findings in a series of essays in Black Iowa News.