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Des Moines Black Lives Matter Organizer Charged, Accused Of Vandalizing Police Car

matthew bruce out of jail
Katarina Sostaric
Des Moines Black Lives Matter organizer Matthew Bruce speaks outside the Polk County Jail after being released on bail on Wednesday.

Prominent Black Lives Matter organizer Matthew Bruce has been charged with first degree criminal mischief after Des Moines police accused him of vandalizing a police car.

He turned himself in to police Wednesday morning, was booked into Polk County Jail, and got out on bail.

Bruce, 24, has led numerous nonviolent protests for racial justice in recent weeks and was part of a group that met with the governor twice to demand that she restore felon voting rights.

He spoke to activists and media outside the Polk County Jail, and accused law enforcement of trying to scare him.

“They think spending a couple hours in that room, or having my hands behind my back or whatever else it is, is going to make me think twice about coming out here, or going to make y’all think twice,” Bruce said. “At the end of the day, we’re not going to stop. We can’t be stopped. Because police have to be defunded, prisons gotta be abolished, and all those badges gotta drop.”

First degree criminal mischief is a class C felony punishable by a potential prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine between $1,000 and $10,000.

Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines, went with Bruce to the police station when he turned himself in. He said Bruce’s lawyer helped negotiate a lower bond amount so he could be quickly released from jail.

“That’s what happens when you have that conversation taking place…and we’re happy for that,” Abdul-Samad said.

The charge stems from a protest that occurred Saturday, when Black Lives Matter activists blocked the entrance to a Des Moines Hy-Vee to support an organizer who said she faced racial discrimination while working there.

Photos from the Des Moines Register show protesters spray painting a police car with anti-police messages. Some protesters jumped on the roof of the car. They also removed a Des Moines Police Department decal from the car and burned it.

The criminal complaint alleges Bruce "acted as an organizer and leader and set into motion intentional damages to be done to the marked DMPD squad car." 

According to the Des Moines Register, there were at least three confrontations between protesters and drivers who tried to get through the crowd Saturday. KCCI reported one of the drivers, Jeff Boucher, was fired from his job with Wyckoff Comfort after video appeared to show him driving into a group of protesters.

Bruce said the Des Moines Police Department should be investigating Boucher and another driver he believes tried to physically harm him and other Black Lives Matter protesters.

DMPD spokesperson Paul Parizek said in a statement that they need a victim to contact the police.

“Crimes against persons require a victim,” Parizek said. “We have seen the video, and there are many questions that need to be answered before a crime could be established, and a person charged.”

DMPD officers were at the Hy-Vee protest Saturday.

Asked if any protesters are considering making a formal complaint about the incidents, Bruce said, “We can take care of that.”

This post was updated Thursday, June 25 at 5:34 p.m.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter