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Two Des Moines police officers sue BLM members over 2020 protests

Ward 1 Des Moines City Councilmember Indira Sheumaker is named as one of six defendants in the lawsuit.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Two Des Moines Police Department officers are suing members of Des Moines BLM after a conflict from over two years ago. One of the defendnats is now a member of the Des Moines City Council. 

According to a lawsuit filed last week, officers Peter Wilson and Jeffrey George are suing Ward 1 councilmember Indira Sheumaker and five other Des Moines BLM members over "de-arresting" tactics the protestors allegedly employed against them.

The incident took place on July 1, 2020 during a protest at the Iowa State Capitol following the murder of George Floyd. The lawsuit alleges Sheumaker and Clayton Stein put Ofc. George in a chokehold while he was attempting to make an arrest. Eva Lewin, Anna Beghardt, Bradley Penna and Jennifer Erwin are accused of grabbing Ofc. Wilson's arms while he was also attempting an arrest. 

The officers' attorney told Local 5 they want to be compensated for the injuries they received.

"This organization purports to be peaceful protests, but they train people to be violent. Their rhetoric is peaceful, but their actions are violent. That's the bottom line. I think that they essentially lied to the public, quite frankly, and they need to be held accountable for that," said Mark Hedberg, attorney for the two officers.

The tactics used by the protestors are referred to as "de-arresting" in the lawsuit. It also alleges Des Moines BLM members were shown videos demonstrating techniques to lift people out of police vans or push over police officers, and that they were trained by martial arts instructors to use violence against police officers.

"We stand in solidarity with these community members being targeted and continue to demand and fight to defund and abolish DMPD," Des Moines BLM said in a statement Thursday.

One defendant told Local 5 she'd never heard of de-arresting before seeing it in the petition, and the accusations do not match up with the organization she knew.

"The organization that fed people through the pandemic, kept people from defaulting on rent and eviction during the pandemic. That's the group I know," said Jennifer Erwin.

In a statement released on July 2, 2020—the day after the incident—Des Moines BLM said: 

"One of our organizers was grabbed by officers and our protestors began to de-arrest them. De-arresting a fellow protestor is a non-violent response to what is often a violent act by law enforcement. This is done by pulling protestors away from officers in an attempt to protect them from being pinned down, beaten and ultimately detained by police."

As of Wednesday evening, hearing dates for the case have not been set and no responses to the lawsuit have been posted online.

The Des Moines Police Department as a whole is not affiliated with this lawsuit, only the two named officers are.

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