The killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis unleashed pent-up fury nationwide. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest the justice system, which too often allows cops to kill unarmed Black people with impunity.
Most of the protests, spread across about 140 cities, have been peaceful. An Associated Press tally found that police arrested at least 4,100 people as of Monday, June 1. Indeed, part of the narrative has been the overly aggressive police response to protests and even journalists, who are usually exempt from the melee, are being arrested while simply trying to do their job. Minnesota state police detained CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and his TV crew on May 29 while reporting live from the epicenter in Minneapolis.
The 5-alarm fire of frustration and anger were ignited by the cruel and unjust killing of Floyd shown after a video went public on Memorial Day of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck – ignoring the Black man please that he can’t breathe – until he died. Floyd had been arrested for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill and was unarmed, handcuffed, and lying face down on the street. It’s just the latest incident of racial unrest in the country separated by days from the killing of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in her home by Louisville police and the shooting death of 25-year-old Amaud Arbery while jogging by white vigilantes.
There is a need to separate those who have been arrested for looting and defiling communities and those who have been arrested for participating in civil disobedience, marching and protesting for a better America as many of our parents and grandparents once did. The individuals suffering through tear gas, police batons, tasers, and rubber bullets need our support and help in more ways than one.
The ACLU says if you are detained by the police for exercising your right to protest, you have a right to ask why you are being arrested. “Otherwise, say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don’t say anything or sign anything without a lawyer,” the organization’s website states.
“Once arrested, protesters go through the same process as someone arrested for committing a criminal offense, Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice campaigns at Color of Change, told BET.com. “Folks are going to end up in their local jail.”
The length of time behind bars could be anywhere from overnight to months, in extreme cases, he added. Much of it depends on the charges and whether a protester can afford the bail.
“There’s no such crime as protesting,” he said. Police typically charge protesters with minor offenses like obstruction of justice and pay a fine. In other cases, a protestor could inadvertently bump a cop and get charged for assaulting an officer, which could result in a bail amount as high as $100,000.
As peaceful protests become more organized and curfews are ignored, friends and family will be in need of your help. Here are 25 ways ways you can support those who are standing on the front lines of justice.
Several nonprofit bail fund organizations use donations to bail protesters from jail. Here are a couple to consider: Minnesota Freedom Fund, which has received donations from a number of celebrities, and The Bail Project, which has a national network of bail fund organizations. Chrissy Teigen said she would donate $200,000 to help bail out arrested protesters. Don Cheadle reportedly donated $1,000, as did Steve Carrell and Seth Rogen. Every little bit helps.
Call or email prosecutors on Color of Change’s prosecutor directory catalog. Prosecutors can influence bail amounts, fines and who gets prosecuted. Whenever there’s an injustice, prosecutors need to hear from us or else they may just sweep things under the rug if they think no one is paying attention. Remember, prosecutors are elected officials, and like all politicians, they want to win their elections.
Consider joining the #JusticeforFloyd petition, Fight For Breonna, or Run With Ahmaud as just three of the online petitions created in the names of those who have died at the hands of white violence. Change.org’s petition drive for Floyd has more than 11 million signatures so far. Consider this as one more tool to influence decision makers, recruit new supporters and add even more voices and pressure to the cause.
Contact the boards of America’s top corporations and ask them to join the fight. Forbes reports that some of the wealthiest companies are feeling the pressure to help battle racism. Intel, for example, is donating $1 million to Black Lives Matter Foundation and other civil rights organizations in the aftermath of this recent wave of violence against Black people. Peloton, the fitness company, is contributing $500,000 to the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund. Lyft co-founder and CEO Logan Green announced a new social justice arm of the company called LyftUp, promising at least $500,000 in ride credit to the National Urban League, NAACP, National Action Network, Black Women's Roundtable and National Bail Fund Network. Meanwhile Facebook/Instragm has committed $10 million in efforts to ending racial injustice encouraging users to #ShareBlackStories.
The nation’s oldest civil rights organization has local branches that are at the center of the battle for justice: Minneapolis NAACP, the Brunswick NAACP and the Louisville NAACP all need your support. They also depend on volunteers to implement their organizing strategies. Donations could go a long way towards simple things like purchasing supplies and covering transportation costs to the more complicated process of finding attorneys to represent people who have been unjustly attacked by the police or arrested.
Contributing to fundraisers enables families to fight their legal battle against a system that is biased against underprivileged people. Philonise Floyd, George’s sister, launched a GoFundMe campaign, not only to cover funeral and burial costs for his brother, but also to help pay for legal fees, court costs and other expenses such as obtaining an independent autopsy. This fight will be a long and arduous experience for the Floyd family and this money will go a long way to offset the headache of the costs that come with it. There’s also a GoFundMe campaign raising money for Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, donations to which will similarly fund that family’s legal battle. Be careful and make sure that the fund you are contributing to is one that is officially and legitimately tied to the family in need.
If you are so inclined to go this far, a D.C. man is being praised for opening his three-story home more than 50 protestors who say they were attacked by police and pepper sprayed. Rahul Dubey told NBC that he provided a safe haven and shelter after seeing protestors, "absolutely decimated and beaten on the steps of my house,"and allowed them to stay until the curfew was lifted at 6:00 a.m. the next day. If you’re unable to make this bold of a gesture, providing water, making signs, being someone’s emergency contact, donating masks, gloves and cell phone chargers are all practical ways to support someone on the front lines of the cause.
Here are the names of several other credible organizations where your donation will go to continue supporting bail funds, medical costs associated with protests, legal aid and more.
BET has been covering every angle of George Floyd’s death in police custody, other social justice cases and the subsequent aftermath and protests. For our continuing coverage, click here.
Photo by Julien Benjamin Guillaume Mattia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images