WATERLOO -- A crowd of a few hundred took to the streets of downtown Waterloo in peaceful protest, marching for justice not only for those killed at the hands of police in other cities but for change in their own.
Protesters, some with signs, chanted "No justice, no peace," "Black lives matter" and "George Floyd," the name of the man killed by police in Minneapolis recently, as they marched through closed stretches of highways and streets Wednesday night.
Local deputies and police -- some wearing riot gear and carrying plastic shields -- watched as the crowd walked across a stretch of northbound U.S. Highway 218, down the ramp to northbound U.S. Highway 63, across the Cedar River bridge and turned east onto Franklin Street before ending the march at Waterloo City Hall, which also houses the Waterloo Police Department.
There, marchers listened to speakers, held a moment of silence, and took a knee with Sheriff Tony Thompson, who walked over with another sheriff's deputy for support. Several protesters then shook Thompson's hand afterwards and the crowd dispersed at around 11 p.m.
"I am proud of you -- we are proud of you -- for what you are doing," said the Rev. Franz Whitfield, a Waterloo pastor and president of the Iowa National Action Network who briefly spoke to the crowd in the City Hall parking lot. "We want you continue to fight. This does not stop here."
Whitfield said he had come out Wednesday night along with others to help defuse tension from previous nights' protesting.
"We saw some videos of some fights that had taken place last night and over the last couple of days, and we wanted to do all we could to really calm down the situation," he said after the protest dispersed.
That was also on the mind of Boujee Berries owner Akisha Hill, who has sat outside her downtown Waterloo business each night since Monday in patio chairs with boyfriend Donell Rivers.
The two hadn't seen any problems since Monday night, when an umbrella at Newton's Paradise Cafe was set aflame.
"It's one or two random people, and that's the ones you've gotta be concerned about," Hill said.
Nonetheless, they planned to keep watch until the early morning hours of Thursday, just in case.
"We are a deterrent," Hill said of those looking to cause trouble. "When they see us sitting here, they turn around."
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.