Jun 27, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Millions are donated to bail out arrested George Floyd protesters

Philadelphia police lead away a young black man under arrest.

A young Black man is under arrest as protesters clash with police near Philadelphia's City Hall on May 30, 2020. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Donors contributed millions of dollars to city bail funds during nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd.

Why it matters: The funds are independent organizations that help arrested people bail out of jail and advocate for ending cash bail in courts around the United States.

How it works: Most jurisdictions require jailed defendants to put up cash or property assurance they will return to court.

  • If the defendant does not appear, the court keeps the bond and issues a warrant for the person's arrest.
  • More than 550,000 people in the U.S. are currently behind bars awaiting trial or sentencing because they cannot afford to post bail, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • Bail systems disproportionally punish poor people and communities of color, as Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to lack the means to post bail than whites, according to the American Bar Association.

The big picture: Donations from people around the world have poured into organizations from Los Angeles to New York City to press for bail reform or to provide the collateral itself to free people while they await trial.

  • Arrests during the protests raised the visibility of the bond system and its inherent inequities, and Black Lives Matter supporters have demanded that states end cash bail systems.

By the numbers: The Minnesota Freedom Fund raised within four days more than $20 million from donations around the world, according to The New York Times. The fund said it helped pay bail for demonstrators who were arrested during Floyd protests in the state.

Yes, but: The Minnesota Freedom Fund received criticism on social media platforms last week after it announced that it had only contributed “well over” $200,000 to bail payments in the weeks after the protests began, the New York Times.

  • Some contributors demanded that the organization provide more oversight into how it spent donations, while others defended the organization and questioned how a small organization could spend millions of dollars in a matter of weeks.
  • "To say again: we are paying, and have paid, all protest bail that's come our way," the Minnesota Freedom Fund said on Twitter. "There are a lot more people in jail on bail. Now, we can help on a scale impossible last month."

Of note: Thomas Lane, a former Minneapolis police officer who was charged with aiding and abetting the murder of Floyd, was released from jail last week after posting a $750,000 bond.

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