Crowd takes a knee in front of City Hall during “Kneel With Us”

Tribune Staff

For nine minutes, nearly 350 individuals of all ages including members of the Ames Police Department and Iowa State Police Department knelt in the northeast lawn in front of City Hall in Ames during a “Kneel With Us” gathering on Tuesday.

Shanita Southward, a resident of Ames who organized the event, told the Tribune on Tuesday afternoon she hoped the event would unite the Ames community.

“I was thinking about [having an event] since everything with George Floyd began,” Southward said to the Tribune Tuesday afternoon. “I felt like we needed something as a community to come together.

“Here in Ames we are one community, and I wanted it to feel that way.”

The peaceful protest came a week after Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died after an officer, Derek Chauvin, responded to reports from a nearby Minneapolis grocery store claiming Floyd made a purchase using a counterfeit $20. Chauvin pinned his knee on Floyd's neck, while Floyd reportedly said, “I can't breathe.”

Chauvin was charged last Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter, and the four officers involved, including Chauvin, were fired earlier in the week. Meanwhile, since Floyd's death, protests against racism and police brutality have broken out across the nation.

Many joined the kneeling event a little after 5 p.m., as the crowd increased as newcomers walked and biked to the lawn in front of City Hall, joining the group of masked attendees dressed in black T-shirts and business wear.

ISU Football Coach Matt Campbell, alongside a handful of ISU football players, also made an appearance during the event on Tuesday.

Jeana Gibson, an attendee, vocalized frustrations to the crowd in front of an Ames Police Department officer who chose to kneel during the speech.

“What we've been seeing is a violation of humanity, and contrary to what we as a community believe in,” the speaker announced. “We are tired of it, and we appreciate you guys coming out kneeling with us.”

Adding, “We feel like we haven't been heard. We're tired.”

During the nine minute kneel, Gibson witnessed many become emotional, including local officers.

“As I walked up, my heart was happy,” Gibson said. “I saw the compassion. … I saw a couple of officers crying and (it's) just pure compassion and united.”

Michael Newton, chief of police at Iowa State University Department of Public Safety, said officers from ISU joined the event to express anger and sadness following the actions of Chauvin.

“We want to be part of the community, and we know the community is hurting — we're hurting as well,” Newton said. “The actions of one officer in another part of the country impacts us all greatly.

“We felt it was important to come out and express our anger, our sadness and our frustrations over the actions of somebody who should have been protecting people, not hurting people.”

Ames Police Cmdr. Jason Tuttle told the Tribune on Tuesday afternoon he hoped the event would bring solidarity to the community.

“We're gonna do everything we can to ensure that we have a good safe protest here at City Hall,” Tuttle told the Tribune. “We're going to give some of our citizens an opportunity to vent their frustrations and it's going to be hopefully a time of solidarity and unity where we come together.”

Over the last few days, Tuttle said businesses have reached out to the police department on whether businesses should be boarded up.

“We've had a good number of businesses calling and asking,” Tuttle said. “We've not recommended anyone to board up the windows or anything like that, because we can't confirm any of these reports that we've been getting.”

Tuttle added, “I know some of the businesses I drove by earlier like Walmart already said they're closing early.”

On Tuesday, an associate with Sam's Club confirmed the Ames store would close early at 6 p.m., which is two hours earlier than traditional closing hours.

Target in Ames also confirmed the store would close an hour early at 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

Though rumors of out-of-state visitors attending the event in Ames began to pop up on social media on Tuesday, Story County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Nicholas Lennie said they knew nothing of the sort Tuesday afternoon.

Over the last few days, officers have heard reports stemming from social media of potential events occurring, Tuttle told the Tribune on Tuesday, “but to this point we'd call it unconfirmed.”

“This has actually been happening over the last three or four nights, where people would say something is going to happen, but it hasn't,” Tuttle said.

Tuttle told the Tribune extra staffing would be around in Ames “in case something happens,” he said.

”We're looking at some of those reports coming in and evaluating them, so we'll have some extra staff (Tuesday) in case something happens.”

Ames Tribune reporters David Mullen and Kiley Wellendorf contributed to this article. Due to early print deadlines, more information about Tuesday's protest can be found online at