Activists described unexpectedly finding a calling. People who had never attended a City Council meeting are now running for a seat. But they’ve also faced consequences.
Matè Muhammad said he knew something big was rising: As protests unfurled across the country following George Floyd's murder last May, hundreds of people were also flooding the streets of Des Moines, Iowa, his hometown.
From Chicago, where he lived at the time, Muhammad watched live feeds of protesters in Des Moines squaring off against police in riot gear. Some smashed windows and threw water bottles. Crowds ran from tear gas and pepper spray. This was an unimaginable sight for Iowa's capital, which did not have a Black Lives Matter chapter, let alone massive street protests for racial justice.
It was like a train was moving, he said, and he didn’t just want to get on — he wanted to drive it.
He connected with friends and helped plan a march in Des Moines on June 3, then came home to be part of it. Since then, he has become a leader in a burgeoning Des Moines protest movement. He organized marches, moved into a house with other activists, and, inspired by earlier revolutionaries like Malcolm X, changed his name from Matthew Bruce in December.