What the Movement to #FreeMeaganTaylor Showed Us About Rural Activism

By Rachel Dupree

Rural activism is a strange and wonderful thing. While our numbers do not compare to New York’s and our rallies are often held in coffee shops, we mean business. We’re out here and we’ve got something to say—and we will use our brother’s roommate’s cousin to do it. You see, we’re a tight community. As a Midwest native and activist, all I do is stretch connections. Oh, your mom’s best friend owns a printing company—can I get a discount on posters?

Whether it’s “Minnesota nice” or “Iowa nice,” we find that people are generally willing to help out, and that’s really how it all begins. By the time we’re done asking for favors and explaining the cause, we’ve doubled our support at least. We get people on board by doing the work. And we saw the fruits of rural activism in the #FreeMeaganTaylor fight.

Meagan Taylor, a transgender Black woman, was targeted at the Drury Inn & Suites in West Des Moines simply because of her appearance. She was arrested and kept in isolation in jail. But after hearing of Meagan’s case, community members responded by offering support through phone calls, donations, and attempting to hold Drury Inn & Suites accountable for their targeting of a Black transgender woman through an action involving 20 people at the hotel. (And yes, the organizing for Meagan all started in a coffee shop.)

“The most important goal is Meagan’s safety and well-being: getting her out of jail and back home,” Mira Bellwether, a trans writer and activist said. ” I think everyone involved in local efforts shares that goal and is working diligently and tirelessly to make it a reality.”

And tirelessly they worked. As part of the action, community members submitted a letter of demands to the hotel. Some of the demands include issuing a formal apology to Meagan Taylor, reimbursing her for the costs accrued from the incident, and taking immediate action to train employees on interactions with LGBTQ folks. The day their press release was sent out, the Drury Inn & Suites was trending on Facebook and people from all over were submitting complaints.

Meagan Taylor’s story may not seem different from any other community effort, but we all need to take heed of rural action. If injustice is happening in the more corn field-like parts of this nation, it’s happening everywhere. This isn’t a big city problem, this is America’s problem. The blatant violence toward black and trans people in this country is being revealed every day in every city.

So don’t count out the coffee shop protests just yet— they are the tipping point in this revolution. Rural activism is the last stop to social transformation. Don’t mess with the Midwest.

By Rachel Dupree

Rachel is a recent graduate of Drake University who studied International Relations, Global Public Health, and PR. She was a Summer 2015 Global Rights intern at the Feminist Majority Foundation. She has a lot of opinions and feelings.

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