The Minnesota Freedom Fund is trending and not for a good reason. After announcing on Twitter that only $200,000 has been spent to bail out protesters, people are wondering what is going on with the more than $30 million the organization has received through donations.
“Without jeopardizing the safety of the folks we bailed out, we paid well over $200k in the weeks since the uprising alone. We are working on doing more,” the organization said in a tweet.
Tens of thousands of people across the world, including celebrities Jameela Jamil and Seth Rogen, contributed to MFF in hopes of helping bail out protesters after thousands were arrested amid protests for the senseless deaths of #AhmaudArbery, #BreonnaTaylor, and #GeorgeFloyd.
The MFF website’s Frequently Asked Questions section informed the public that it had received more than $30 million since Floyd’s death. Although an exact number was not specified, critics’ recent backlash over the small fraction that has been paid out, seems reasonable, as well as their questions surrounding why the disbursement is taking so long.
“We know that many people have donated to us to support those protesting George Floyd’s murder and generations of police violence. We will prioritize posting bail for those arrested demanding justice for George Floyd,” MFF’s website read. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
According to the Associated Press, more than 10,000 people across the nation were arrested in the first ten days of protests decrying police brutality. We witnessed many states set curfews and increase police presence, which significantly helped arrest hundreds more each day.
Appreciate all those calling for transparency. We see y’all. Our values and mission have not changed since 2016. Be on the lookout for things coming on our end. Be well. https://t.co/ocWVGrYzcj
— Minnesota Freedom Fund (@MNFreedomFund) June 16, 2020
In an attempt to reassure the public, the community-based nonprofit established to help pay bail for low-income individuals and cases like what we are witnessing today released the following via Twitter: “Appreciate all those calling for transparency. We see y’all. Our values and mission have not changed since 2016. Be on the lookout for things coming on our end. Be well,” the nonprofit, which works to bail out those who couldn’t otherwise afford it, posted on Twitter.
Apparently, MFF ran on a very small scale and usually issued only $1,000 on a normal day. “We’re adapting quickly to handle the volume and scale of the current need,” it added.” They have now partnered with a legal aid organization in hopes of getting those with cash bails bonded out “as quickly as possible.”
But amid the backlash, Some twitter users have come to the organization’s defense, saying it’s very likely that the small funded company is having trouble working on a significantly larger scale.
“I feel like everyone yelling at the Minnesota freedom fund for only using 200k so far of the 35 MILLION dollars it raised doesn’t understand how hard it is to efficiently spend, manage, and account for that kind of money when you’re clearly not set up to work on that scale,” Kath Barbadoro tweeted. “Maybe their scammers, but it’s also likely they have never had to manage more than 1/100th that amount of money at once.”
Still, many critics don’t like what they are hearing and compared MFF’s response to the” black grassroots” that” have been getting folks out of jail on our own.”
“This white-run organization allegedly collected $35 million, and only used $200k to actually bail out protesters,” Tariq Nasheed said. “Those of us in the real Black grassroots have been getting folks out of jail on our own. This is why we have to stop the coopt.”
Meanwhile, Roxanne Gay suggested that MFF get a “crisis communication expert ASAP.”
But what also seems very likely is what Max Burns suggests, saying,” I’ve worked with organizations that have overseen large-scale bailout campaigns. It is sadly common to see city agencies make the bail process harder for an org with momentum & money behind it, [email protected] Lots of ways to slow up money flowing out of a bail fund.”
Good morning. Let's talk about "where the money went" and where it's going. All protest-related bail so far that has come our way has been paid and we're going to keep that up. At the onset of all this we set aside $10K for protesters, because it's what we had – not enough (1/??)
— Minnesota Freedom Fund (@MNFreedomFund) June 16, 2020
However, just hours after the initial backlash, MFF returned to Twitter to provide even more clarity.
“Good morning. Let’s talk about “where the money went” and where it’s going. All protest-related bail so far that has come our way has been paid and we’re going to keep that up. At the onset of all this we set aside $10K for protesters, because it’s what we had – not enough,” the organization began. “We stand ready to pay all protest-related bail (that isn’t for Nazis – we’re here for community). But what about “catch-and-release” protesters? Many people had no bail but were scooped up and charged, and now have ongoing legal costs.”
“Part of fighting pre-trial injustice means making sure people aren’t pleading guilty on bullshit charges, like being hit with Riot while on a friend’s porch, which happened. We are working with a group of arrestees who will help coordinate support for those fighting charges,” MFF continued. “”Support” starts with legal representation, court fees, and transportation, and starts with $150k. That can scale up as the project gets set up and costs start getting documented. We aren’t going to leave folks hanging, just like we aren’t going to stop paying bail. Speaking of, THAT’S where the money is going that doesn’t go to protesters: bail. We are a volunteer community fund who until last month was doing all we could to pay a handful of misdimeanors each month, steadily paying, getting funds back, raising more $ when we could, doing it again.”
“This is the part where transparency gets exciting. We get to talk about all the people sitting in jail who didn’t take plea deals, sitting in jails pre-trial. We can share about the race and class disparities of those jailed pre-trial. And we can take action we’d only dreamed of. Our pinned Tweet mentions $50 million to empty Hennepin jail. Not a talking point – a mission. We pay for those who can’t afford it. That’s the ~150 humans we’ve found in Hennepin who are in on bail. Ramsey = ?, bad data system, but we’re researching and pressuring there to learn,” the fund added.
“Now, thanks to you, we have money. We also have a massive influx of volunteer interest, which we are activating. Which is exciting, and vital, because we’ll need people power, not just cash, for what comes next: mass liberation. We’d paused donations to adjust – now, we work. To say again: we are paying, and have paid, all protest bail that’s come our way. There are a lot more people in jail on bail. Now, we can help on a scale impossible last month. We want to spend this money down to get people out of cages (ICE too) and we want to do it right.”
Let us hope for the best.