NBC News: They Joined Black Lives Matter Protests in Des Moines. It Changed Their Lives.

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Iowa activists Indira Sheumaker, Jaylen Cavil, Denver Foote and Matè Muhammad joined the protests in Des Moines last spring. They haven’t stopped pushing for change. Rachel Mummey / for NBC News

DES MOINES, Iowa — 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 livefeeds 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.

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