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Black Lives Matter rioters forced a Des Moines Hy-Vee to close early on Saturday afternoon. Reports indicate the rioters blocked entrance to the parking lot, the store and also vandalized a police vehicle.

It all started when Jassma’ray Johnson, a Hy-Vee employee, posted on social media that she decided to distance herself from the company as it has never valued her black life and labor. Johnson posted that she’s been exposed to racism, sexual harassment and sexism while working at Hy-Vee.

She alleged that after protesting during a George Floyd demonstration, Hy-Vee moved her to a less noticeable role. She also said a manager told her she was hired to work, not protest.

Hy-Vee, for its part, said it is aware of the allegations. Johnson is a former employee, the company acknowledged, at the Park Avenue Hy-Vee store.

“We do not tolerate harassment or discrimination, and have a process at both the store and corporate level for employees to report any issue,” the company said in a statement. “We have tried multiple times to speak with Jassma’ray ‘Jazzy’ Johnson to discuss her situation but to no avail. This is apparent by her Facebook posts of the messages from our employees trying to connect with her. She also claims on Facebook that we placed her in the ‘back’ of the store, when she worked in our Aisles Online department for one day when help was needed in that area. Other claims suggest she was ‘punished’ for attending a protest, when in fact she was allowed to leave work early to attend the event.

“It’s disappointing that she took these concerns to social media versus addressing them with anyone in the company, which has now led to (Saturday’s) event.”

In build-up to the event, Black Lives Matter Iowa posted photos of a few employees of the store who it claims are racist.

On Friday, the group posted “demands” for Hy-Vee.

*all managers involved in sexual harassment, protest suppression, discrimination and all forms of abuse to be fired;

*employees get a raise for working during COVID;

*employees who haven’t received reviews get them and be compensated according to their work ethic;

*ban all forms of discrimination and racial profiling;

*a safe work environment for employees and customers;

*sexual harassment to be taken seriously at Hy-Vee;

*part-time workers be able to earn PTO;

*opportunity for part-time workers to become full-time;

*and public apology for the unfair treatment of employees and customers.

Here is some footage and photos of Saturday’s protest that was shared on social media:

This video shows participants blocking what appears to be entrances to the parking lot of the store.

There is also footage that shows an encounter with the media. Those media members are hoping more former Hy-Vee employees show up to tell their stories.

Eventually there was a driver who wasn’t pleased to have the road, which is made for traffic, not protestors, blocked.

During the riot, protestors chanted “F*ck Hy-Vee” while standing on a police vehicle.

They also blocked the entrance to the store.

When Hy-Vee staff asked them to move to a designated area, the request was rejected.

“We have the right to protest and I spoke to some of the Republican people in office, Democratic people in office, and they said it’s our constitutional right to get a protest. We have a right to freedom of speech and we got a right to protest. This is a lawful assembly,” one protestor said.

It would be interesting to know which Republicans and Democrats told the individual they had the right to block traffic on public roads, block entrance to a private business, block entrance to a parking lot and force a business to close all so they could “protest.”

There’s also a thing called private property rights – and your rights end where someone else’s begin.

Another video shows a protestor saying the only thing that would’ve made today better was some (expletive) leftover fireworks – calling Hy-Vee an obvious racist institution.

Protestors also performed a chant about someone being “about to lose their job.”

During a segment on KCCI, the protestors interrupt with a chant about Gov. Kim Reynolds and how important it is for her issue an executive order which would provide automatic restoration of felons voting rights. Reynolds has already held two meetings with the group.

The Des Moines Register reporter there to cover the event, said on Twitter that the event had “mostly turned into a party vibe at this point.” She noted nobody had come in or out of the main entrance for more than 90 minutes, including cops.

Here are some photos of the “party.”

Des Moines Police were at Hy-Vee on Saturday, but seemingly did not intervene.

Hy-Vee said it did not provide direction on possible arrests, noting it had the police there for everyone’s safety. No protesting took place inside the story, just in the parking lot, which is shared with other retailers.

There were no plans to close the store, though it closed at 3:30 p.m.

Hy-Vee noted that it provided a 10 percent bonus for all front-line workers in its stores in mid-March. Employees also receive a 10 percent discount on grocery purchases, with an increase up to 40 percent on special occasions.

“Our attempts to understand and resolve Jassma’ray “Jazzy” Johnson’s specific issues have been unsuccessful, as has any outreach to the Black Lives Matter Iowa group,” the statement said. “Instead, individual Hy-Vee employees have been targeted and threatened on social media and at the store. Our efforts to understand and address any concerns have been met with silence – until today’s protest. We remain dedicated to maintaining a safe, open and inclusive environment for employees and customers in all of our stores. We are committed to being a part of the solution to any racial divide in our country – our hope is others will do the same.”

A Go Fund Me page for Des Moines Black Lives Matter Kickoff Fund has raised $51,020. The original goal was set at $8,000.

Jacob Hall

Author: Jacob Hall