Posted on July 8, 2022

Des Moines Police Officers Accuse Council Member of Assault in Lawsuit Over 2020 Protests

William Morris, Des Moines Register, July 6, 2022

Two Des Moines police officers are suing six protestors, including now-City Council member Indira Sheumaker, who they allege assaulted them during a chaotic melee two years ago.

The July 1, 2020, protest in front of the Iowa Capitol occurred during ongoing unrest that began after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. At least 17 people were arrested, according to police statements at the time.

Officers Peter Wilson and Jeffrey George, who were in the center of the scrum, are accusing Sheumaker in the suit of assault and battery. Also named as defendants are Clayton Stein, Eva Lewin, Anna Gebhardt, Bradley Penna and Jennifer Erwin.

All were charged with assault or attempted interference with arrests in the confrontation.

{snip} The Des Moines Black Liberation Movement staged a protest at 8 p.m. Wednesday on Court Avenue outside the building housing the offices of the police officers’ lawyer. Organizer Jaylen Cavil, a top supporter of Sheumaker’s City Council campaign, led about 50 demonstrators in chants opposing the Des Moines Police Department.


BLM, then known as Des Moines Black Lives Matter, organized the 2020 demonstration to demand that Gov. Kim Reynolds restore felon voting rights by executive order after failing to win legislative approval for the move. She issued the order the following month.

During the demonstration, police attempted to arrest three people in connection with a June 20, 2020, protest that resulted in damage to a police vehicle and other property in the parking lot of a south side Hy-Vee store.

As described in the lawsuit, filed June 30, other protestors responded by attempting to forcefully “de-arrest” those being detained. Two defendants, Sheumaker and Stein, are accused of putting George in a chokehold. Sheumaker additionally is accused of striking Wilson and Lewing, Gebhardt, Penna and Erwin are accused of pulling on Wilson’s arms to prevent him from making an arrest.

In the wake of the arrests, demonstrators blamed police for causing the conflict. {snip}


All six defendants were criminally charged, according to the complaint. Several, including Sheumaker, pleaded guilty, and Sheumaker was sentenced to probation.


The lawsuit alleges that BLM’s tactics, including de-arresting, were anything but non-violent.

According to the complaint, the protesters’ tactics had included blocking interstate highway traffic with decoy cars and hazardous road obstructions and making anonymous false reports of violence and gunmen. De-arresting tactics included “play tug-of-war with the cops” “mace a cop,” and “get the cops from behind,” according to articles allegedly shared among protestors, and BLM members arranged martial arts demonstrations before taking to the streets.

“While purportedly claiming to be engaged in peaceful protest, their actions and plans were nothing short of domestic terrorism,” said the complaint {snip}


George and Wilson believe more people should be aware of what demonstrators did during the protests, and that the criminal cases against those arrested did not do enough to hold them accountable, said their attorney, Mark Hedberg.

“There was no accountability in terms of what they did …,” he said.