Since the death of George Floyd, bailing protesters out of jail has become big business – and a bevy of organizations devoted to funneling money into exactly that function have popped up across the nation. But not all is well in the land of leftists. The Minnesota Freedom Fund (MFF) found itself in some hot water after happily tweeting about the $200,000 it spent bailing out protesters. That’s nearly a quarter million dollars, so what’s the problem? Well, they had also recently boasted about receiving more than $30 million in donations. So, what has the organization done with the rest of the money? Is it all just a big misunderstanding, or has there been some funny business with the donor dollars? Well, that’s the 2.8-million-dollar question.
MFF is a small organization with only one full-time employee, a board of directors, and some part time workers, so trying to collect, allocate, and post bail was likely a monumental task with so many donations coming in. The fund has had some racial diversity issues of its own, as well. It has caught flak for employing mostly white people and suffered from a bit of a Fauxcahontas moment in April, when the executive director, Tonja Honsey, claimed to be Native American on Facebook. On May 31, Octavia Smith, a black woman, stepped down as president and explained, “I had some disagreements around leadership. That is probably all I’m able to say.” The leave of absence didn’t last long, though, as on June 11, Smith resumed her presidential role after the board asked her to return “in order to steward a just transition of resources and power.”
MFF is the same fund organization that at least 13 Joe Biden campaign staff members admitted to making donations to. Andrew Bates, the campaign spokesperson, said Biden opposed cash bail, relating it to a “modern day debtors prison.”
With protests popping up all over the nation, people are looking to make donations to provide “get out of jail free” cards to demonstrators. The National Lawyers Guild has set up hotlines for arrestees to call; the phone number is displayed on many cardboard signs at demonstrations. It will also connect people to the Community Justice Exchange, which has ties with the National Bail Fund Network in all 50 states, so that they can get in touch with local chapters.
Some funding organizations are having trouble keeping up with all the traffic and support. The Peoples City Council Freedom Fund in Los Angeles, CA was originally created in early May in reaction to proposed budget cuts to the LAPD. It has already received more than $2 million since the protests began. The Brooklyn Bail Fund and Free Them All for Public Health, both in New York, were so overwhelmed they had to send potential donors to other groups.
MFF’s tweet and the public’s reaction highlighted the need for accountability as to where all of the money is going. Black Visions Collective (BLVC) and Reclaim the Block released a statement calling for “accountability and transparency.” While the protests are beginning to slow down, these funding sources are still struggling to dole out the money and get their records straight. If there is anything positive to say about the tragic death of George Floyd, perhaps it is the millions of dollars being infused to help the black community.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.