Matthew Bruce, 24, has been charged with first-degree criminal mischief, a class C felony. He turned himself into Des Moines police at about 10 a.m. Wednesday and was released about two hours afterward from Polk County Jail on $1,000 bail.
Speaking through a bullhorn, he immediately addressed a group consisting of 25 activists and supporters who had gathered outside the jail, assuring them that he would keep participating in the metro area’s protests.
“They think that spending a couple of hours in that room, or having my hands behind my back … is going to make me think twice about coming out here and doing this,” Bruce said. “Or make us think twice about what y’all doing because really I’m just a symbol for y’all’s collective power.
“At the end of the day, we’re not going to stop. We can’t be stopped.”
Bruce has been helpful in organizing numerous protests throughout the Des Moines metro since the beginning of riots and demonstrations having spread to numerous states in the United States after a cop was caught on tape with his knee on the neck of a man later identified as George Floyd.
Bruce’s felony charge, which is punishable by up to 10 years of jail, emerged after a protest Saturday at the Hy-Vee store on Southeast 14th Street. Protestors blocked the store’s entrance in support of a former worker who says she experienced racial discrimination at work and was made to remove a Black Lives Matter sign at her cash register.
After that “Black Lives Matter” and anti-police phrases were spray-painted on a police SUV which was parked outside the store. Some rioters took the police decal off of the vehicle and then they burned it, while others damaged the vehicle by jumping on it.
Iowa State Representative, Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines, accompanied Bruce into the police station. Abdul-Samad has spent the past several weeks serving as a mediator between such protestors or rioters and city and state officials, including law enforcement officials.
“We want to make sure that the dialogue continues, that we’re able to get things done,” said Abdul-Samad. “We can be mad all day, but until we can get some things accomplished — until we come together and sit down — we won’t get what we need to get done.”
Bruce accused police of using chemical irritants on rioters and protesters Monday and referred his arrest as “retaliation” after last weekend’s protests.
“This is a message to each and every one of y’all: This treatment right here ain’t going to do nothing but hype me up, make me louder, and get all of us pumped up,” Bruce said. “So keep it up. You’re all making it easy. The more y’all act corrupt, the faster it is until y’all gonna be updating your resumes.”