The Potluck

After raising millions, Minnesota Freedom Fund says it’s spent $200,000 to bail out protesters

By: - June 16, 2020 9:06 am

John Thompson, a friend of Philando Castile and police reform activist, leads the crowd in chants after the memorial service for George Floyd in Minneapolis. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

This post has been updated to note response from Minnesota Freedom Fund and other new information. 

The Minnesota Freedom Fund came under fire Monday when it shared that it had spent about $200,000 to bail out protesters, after raising more than $30 million in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.

“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 nonprofit wrote in a tweet Monday night. They clarified in a tweet Tuesday that “all protest-related bail so far that has come our way has been paid and we’re going to keep that up.”

The Monday night tweet sparked criticisms from many wondering why the organization, which was launched in 2016 with the mission of paying criminal and immigrant bonds for people who can’t afford them, hadn’t put donations to use more quickly.

The Minnesota Freedom Fund hasn’t published exactly how much it has raised since Floyd’s killing, but the Star Tribune reported June 10 that it had received $30 million from more than 900,000 donors. Those donors included celebrities like Seth Rogen, Steve Carrell and Jameela Jamil, who took to social media to call for others to give to the cause.

“This is unacceptable. You raised 35 million? What does it mean you ‘are working on doing more’? We literally have buildings burned down in North Minneapolis and Black businesses and families without essential resources. And there’s not a single Black person on your Board. SMGDH,” Nekima Levy-Armstrong, former president of the Minneapolis NAACP, wrote in a tweet.

Minnesota Freedom Fund Board President Octavia Smith told Bring Me the News that four of the nonprofit’s seven board members are people of color, contrary to criticisms claiming that the organization’s board is all white.

The Minnesota Freedom Fund’s website says that until recently, the organization handled about $1,000 in a typical day and was “adapting quickly to handle the volume and scale of the current need.” In 2018, it brought in about $110,000, according to tax filings.

In addition to posting bail, the Minnesota Freedom Fund will help with the legal process and costs for those facing charges, the organization wrote in a tweet Tuesday

“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,” the fund wrote in a tweet.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.