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Black Lives Matter rally returns, pushes vote

WATERLOO — Black Lives Matter marchers returned to the streets of downtown Waterloo on Tuesday night to renew the focus on racial justice and encourage voting.

“This fight is never over. It wasn’t over when Martin Luther King marched. It wasn’t over when Malcolm X marched. It wasn’t over when Barack Obama came into office,” organizer Aquonn Williams said Tuesday night, months after nationwide marches and protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

About 70 people rallied in Lincoln Park and then marched past the building that houses Waterloo’s City Hall and police station chanting “no justice, no peace” and the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Derrick Ambrose and others who lost their lives to police.

After passing through a nearby neighborhood, the group stopped at the absentee ballot drop box in front of the Black Hawk County Courthouse. There, organizers pleaded with marchers to vote in the upcoming election.

Marching once isn’t getting the job done, Williams said.

“Getting the job done is one thing,” he said tapping on the ballot box. “This is getting the job done right here. If you don’t do anything on Nov. 3, if your vote isn’t in here, your voice doesn’t matter because you didn’t do anything to help the situation.”

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City officials also stepped up to the microphone to highlight progress in the relationship between residents and the police force in the months since Floyd died as a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Mayor Quentin Hart noted the Waterloo Police Department put in place a number of policies and changed use-of-force guidelines over the summer.

“Hold us accountable, but also understand that the blue here in the city of Waterloo have your back, and we are going to work every day to prove to you that we are the type of organization you can be proud of,” Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald said.



PHOTOS: Black Lives Matter rally Oct. 13, 2020

PHOTOS: Black Lives Matter rally Oct. 13, 2020

Education
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UNI expanding access for Meskwakis as they work together on land stewardship statement

CEDAR FALLS — An education at the University of Northern Iowa will be more accessible for members of the Meskwaki Nation as several initiatives announced this week are put in place.

Among those are reinstating a summer school program for the tribe’s youths that ended in 2017 and creating new scholarships.

In addition, UNI will acknowledge its campus sits on the traditional homeland of indigenous people — including the Meskwaki, who are helping the university develop a land stewardship statement.

“We have a work group of faculty, staff, students and members of the Meskwaki tribe working on a draft statement now,” said Andrew Morse, UNI’s assistant to the president for board and governmental relations. Shared governance groups around the campus will review the draft before formal adoption, he noted, so others understand how it “can influence and guide our work in years to come.”

The Meskwaki, who live on more than 3,000 acres in Tama County, were dispossessed of their homelands in a series of land concessions with the U.S. government in 1845. Twelve years later, the tribe bought the first 80 acres of its settlement. Tama County is south of Black Hawk County.

“We have important work ahead to continue stewarding this land to meet the mission of the university to promote the success of each individual who will call this place home for years and generations to come,” UNI President Mark Nook said in a news release.

“We are honored to be partnering with UNI in the land stewardship project,” added Meskwaki Tribal Chair Judith Bender in the release. “The plans that are being developed mean our students will have an easier time adjusting to university life, thus helping them to a better chance of reaching graduation.”

The initiatives grew out of a conversation that Nook and Morse had with the tribal council in July. That visit was spurred by faculty, staff and students who had “raised the questions about the way we could grow in partnership” with the Meskwaki and other native people, said Morse.

“Currently, we have less than 1% of our student population from a native or indigenous background,” he added. “Our goals here are not only to increase that number but to make sure they know they are part of the Panther family.” That will mean ensuring “our native students have the resources to be successful.”

A group is working with the Meskwaki Settlement School on the summer program that will help young people learn about the college experience. UNI’s Office of Student Success and Retention is also collaborating with the school’s higher education program to promote college readiness for students.

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Scholarships will be developed for students who graduate from the Meskwaki school or South Tama High School for those who choose to enroll at UNI.

Morse said the scholarships will cover the full cost of tuition and fees through a combination of federal and institutional grants. They will be open to students who are part of an underrepresented minority group, come from low-income families or are first-generation college students, and participate in the federal Trio programs. Students can qualify for a scholarship if they meet at least two of the criteria.

UNI also will work to establish a student organization focused on honoring native and indigenous cultures as well as enhance campus engagement opportunities for those students.

In addition, the university is working to establish a program for faculty to support the professional development of language and culture teachers at the Meskwaki Settlement School.

“We are developing a plan that would put our educators onsite for the professional development,” said Morse. “Being an educator is sort of a life-long work-in-progress. This is one opportunity that we are helping to provide for the teachers in the school.”



Collection of photos from UNI’s UNIty march

Collection of photos from UNI's UNIty march

Local
Trump to hold Des Moines rally amid growing COVID-19 hospitalization surge

DES MOINES — The first 2020 presidential campaign visit to Iowa comes Wednesday as Republican President Donald Trump visits Des Moines.

Trump’s campaign has prioritized in-person events and aggressive door-knocking as it tries to turn out new and low-propensity voters, including more members of the white working class who may have backed Democrats in the past.

Polling suggests Iowa is once again a swing state in the presidential election: Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight both report polls, on average, have shown Trump and Democratic challenger and former U.S. vice president Joe Biden virtually tied in Iowa, a state Trump won by nearly 10 percentage points four years ago.

But while the polls show a close race here, the presidential campaigns have not shown Iowa as much attention as other battleground states, including neighboring Wisconsin and Minnesota.

While time is running out — Election Day, Nov. 3, is less than three weeks away and early voting is underway — the Trump campaign visit comes at an otherwise inopportune moment: Iowa’s COVID-19-related hospitalizations are at their highest point of the pandemic, and deaths are steadily increasing.

Iowa on Tuesday posted a new record for the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 at 463. The state posted another 580 new confirmed cases for a total of 100,632 positive cases. Another 17 people died in the last 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 1,481.

Iowa had 230 deaths in September and 139 so far in October with 82 in the past week alone.

Iowa’s two-week averages for current COVID-19-related hospitalizations and recent admissions are at their highest points of the pandemic, and the two-week average of new COVID-19-related deaths also has been climbing.

The rally is scheduled to be held outdoors in a cargo hangar at Des Moines International Airport. Airport officials have been told to plan for up to 10,000 people.

The president was released from the hospital just 10 days ago after being treated for COVID-19. The president’s physician Monday announced Trump is no longer infectious to others has tested negative for the virus.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said she plans to attend and on social media encouraged other Trump supporters to as well. Republican former Gov. Terry Branstad, fresh off his return from China where he served as Trump’s U.S. ambassador over the past four years ago, also plans to attend.

Iowa remains under a public health emergency declared by Reynolds on March 17. It requires that organizers of mass gatherings “must ensure at least six feet of physical distance between each group or individual attending alone.”

The same social distancing requirement remains in effect for bars, restaurants, malls, casinos and performance venues, and Reynolds has empowered state agencies to enforce the restrictions.

When asked Monday if the proclamation pertains to the Trump rally, Reynolds’ spokesman said the Republican governor looks forward to attending and noted that gathering will take place outside.

On Tuesday, in his second rally since contracting the virus, Trump spoke for more than an hour in Pennsylvania to a crowd of thousands packed in tightly and mostly maskless. Like the night before in Florida, Trump seemed healthy, and his rhetoric on the pandemic — including the dubious claim it was mostly a thing of the past — changed little despite his own illness, except for his threat to kiss audience members to prove his immunity.

Tickets to Wednesday’s event, which are free, are available at donaldjtrump.com/events.

A Trump campaign Facebook invitation to apply for tickets includes a statement that attendees “voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and waive, release and discharge” the Trump campaign from any liability.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Collection of photos from UNI's UNIty march