UPDATE: According to a news release from the City of Davenport, on Monday evening the Iowa Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue team demobilized their search, rescue and recovery efforts at 324 Main Street.USAR has determined that the building is clear of collapse victims and collapsed building material from the foundation of the building has been removed, the release says.
EARLIER: As the bodies of three men have been recovered from the downtown Davenport building collapse, there is a petition calling for the mayor’s resignation and plans for a formal protest at City Hall Wednesday.
Protestors plan to gather at City Hall (226 W. 4th St.) at 4:30 p.m. to march, and while the City Council’s Committee of the Whole meets at 5:30 inside, the protestors will meet outside to formulate specific goals and likely will appear in Council Chambers. The Committee of the Whole agenda says there is a public comment period at the end of the meeting, and comments are limited to five minutes each.
“Everything right now that’s happening is very fluid, dynamic and changing in the moment,” Moselle Singh, an organizer of Wednesday’s event (“Justice & Accountability for Building Collapse”), said Monday morning. “So people are just trying to respond to the situation the best that they can. We all want understanding that as of yet, we feel like there hasn’t been meaningful interaction between the City Council and the public to begin conversation around all of this.”
“People if they have certain ideas of steps forward for how we can be more effective in our organizing together as a community, to make sure that something like this never happens again,” Singh said.
There’s been discussion of starting a formal Tenants’ Alliance, to represent the needs of all tenants in Davenport, she said.
“The goal is like, well, let’s start just talking about how we can move together as a community and if they’re not gonna have that conversation with us, then we’ll have it together,” Singh said.
“I’m just totally floored because you would think that the city would have a better understanding of community and everything that they’ve done reflects the fact that they do not understand what real community is,” she said. “What’s happening on the ground amongst the people who have been at the protest site, that is what the community looks like.”
Wednesday’s protest is “recognizing that all of us are in different roles. We all have different experiences. We have different skill sets, we have different capacities and together. what we can do by bringing all of that together is so much and we’re not gonna be going behind closed doors to have private conversations to try to get things done because that isn’t how community works,” Singh said.
“You show up together, you share together, you hold space together and that includes holding space for these painful emotions that we’re all feeling that doesn’t mean you see them as a threat. and you run away or you put a police barricade between yourself and the community because that is not what community does.”
Branden Colvin Sr.’s body was recovered at the building site (324 Main St.) Saturday. The body of Ryan Hitchcock was recovered Sunday and Daniel Prien early Monday. The discoveries came after authorities announced that the search for survivors had been completed, with attention turning to shoring up the remaining structure so recovery efforts could begin.
City officials had said earlier that Colvin, 42; Hitchcock, 51; and Prien, 60; had “high probability of being home at the time of the collapse.” Searching for them has proven to be extremely dangerous. The remains of the six-story apartment building were constantly in motion in the first 24 to 36 hours after it collapsed on May 28, putting rescuers at great risk.
Mayor Mike Matson holding regular press conferences to answer tightly controlled media questions is not a substitute for answering community questions, Singh said.
“Talking at us is not the same as having real dialogue and really listening to each other,” she said. “We need to really do away with this hierarchical thinking where the information is coming from top down because let me tell you what — truth comes from the ground up.”
When Matson was asked last week why he hasn’t held a town hall meeting on the issue for the public to speak, he said he’s been in communication with families affected by the collapse, and he regularly speaks with the media.
Seeking mayor’s resignation
Singh is supporting a petition on site calling for the mayor to resign.
“It’s just repeated failure of really listening to community needs,” she said. “A mayor is somebody who is meant to serve the community. You’re meant to listen to the community needs, the voices and do what needs done to protect people. And you know, the rush demolition job also is just a reflection of where these people, these lives seem to be very disposable in the city’s mind, and in the mayor’s mind, which is really alarming because none of us are disposable.”
Matson has said repeatedly that he regrets how the situation was handled and that the ongoing search and recovery efforts must be handled in a controlled, meticulous and dignified way, since the site was a resting place for fatal victims.
The city originally announced that the building demolition was to begin Tuesday morning, May 30. Protests erupted after a woman was rescued Monday night, May 29, about 8 p.m., hours after the city ordered the demolition to begin as early as Tuesday. The timetable for controlled demolition was later pushed back.
“This has a long history of negligence. So as much as he’s trying to cover himself, it is also quite easy for those who recognize this. Because it’s a pattern of behavior, we’ve seen it before and we see the truth, the truth speaks for itself,” Singh said of Mayor Matson. “It’s very clear to us what’s happening. So we’re not stupid. We are not ignorant, we can’t be played.”
She’s also been disappointed that existing organizations in the Quad Cities haven’t stepped up to represent tenant needs.
“Because so far no one in the community, all these supposed leaders and people who care, who claim to care haven’t appeared to really give any guidance through this about how we can organize,” Singh said. “How we can make these issues known. So we’re just gonna do it ourselves. We’re just normal people.”
“It’s come down to individuals and just human beings who are part of this community, community members who are like, well, what can I do?” she said. “And it turns out we actually have a really amazing, diversified skill set amongst just individuals who care. The main thing that we have is, we refuse to turn a blind eye to this.”
Singh is reaching out to other communities that have formed tenant organizations, to see how they handled similar situations, noting Omaha, Neb., as a good example. “We’re just gonna gain insight from those who have gone through this process before and do our best to address the situation in our own.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.