To commemorate the one-year anniversary of the police shooting of 34-year-old Autumn Steele, demonstrators gathered outside the Burlington Police Department on January 6.
The “Justice for Autumn Steele-One Year Later” rally has been promoted by organizers as “A Walk through Burlington to Remember Autumn on the Day Burlington Iowa Cop Jess Hill Took Her Life.” Steele was accidentally shot by Burlington Police Officer Jesse Hill on the morning of January 6, 2015.
At 1 pm on Wednesday, nearly a dozen demonstrators assembled in front of the Burlington Police Department, located at 424 N. 3rd St. in Burlington, Iowa, to share memories of Autumn, discuss the circumstances of her death and show solidarity with victims of police brutality.
Organizers say that they are honoring Steele’s memory not only through words but through action as well. They have called for Hill’s resignation and full disclosure of what happened on that day.
Illinois-born animal rights activist Marsha Soto, who has participated in over 30 anti-police corruption demonstrations, has participated in nearly event Steele event since the Iowa Animal Board ruling in February 2015. Soto was unable to attend today’s rally, but told Iowa Free Press she was pleased with the turnout.
After being asked why Steele’s story has received international attention in recent months, Soto said it was because her story was kept “in the public eye.”
Vern Ancelet is an activist who has been chronicling Justice for Autumn Steele events over the last year.
“The main objective today was to let individuals know about what happened with Autumn Steele,” Ancelet said.
Ancelet, a filmmaker currently working on the documentary Project Autumn, said there were both displays of support and opposition at the rally.
There was a reporter from KBUR who did not appear “to be too happy with the protesters but sure liked to talk and joke with an officer that was leaving out of the building,” Ancelet told Iowa Free Press.
“We had one heckler driving in a beat-up blue vehicle shortly after the event belittling the protesters,” Ancelet said. “Sort of ironic that the people who are against the protests either hide in their vehicle giving a finger or yelling slurs in the past who don’t want a dialogue in the matter. It’s pretty closed-minded if you ask me.”
The Cop Block Network announced in a series of public statements alleging that Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers, who cleared Hill of any wrong-doing, “protects the system” and not “the people the system is supposed to protect.”
Cop Block is a non-profit grassroots project “committed to highlighting the double standards often granted to those with badges.”
As a contributor and journalist for Cop Block, Hotchkin has been following the case since January 2015.
Supporters who were not able to attend the rally showed their respect through personal messages and posting photos of Steele and lit candles on social media outlets.
As reported by Iowa Free Press, “Iowa received a ‘D+’ grade in a 2015 nationwide assessment of ‘state government transparency and accountability’ conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity.” The report cites the aftermath of the Steele shooting as a primary example.
Iowa Free Press reached out to the Burlington Police Department for their response, but they have been unavailable for comment.