Michael Brown is to be laid to rest today, but the tension over his death has hardly dissipated. Public opinion remains divided between those who think Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson should be charged with murder and those who say he had a right to shoot the teenager in self defense.
The crowd (and its funding) seem to be supporting the latter. Here’s why:
On Aug. 17, the page “Support Officer Darren Wilson“ was created by his supporters on the crowd-funding platform GoFundMe.com. Even though Wilson has not been arrested, supporters say the funds will be used to cover his legal fees. Within seven days, the page raised $234,910 from 5,901 people. It was closed on Aug. 22 after reaching its goal.
A new fundraising page, “Support Officer Wilson,” was opened on Aug. 23 by a local police union. In two days, it has raised more than $130,000 from 2,973 people. Supporters also recently held a rally outside a St. Louis’ local news station, selling T-shirts with the message “Officer Darren Wilson. We Stand By You. 8-9-14.” The T-shirts, on sale for $20, reportedly sold out.
The amount collected for Wilson in the past six days is greater than the amount Michael Brown’s family and supporters have been able to raise publicly since the teen was shot.
The Brown family is using the same crowd-funding platform to ask for donations to the “Michael Brown Memorial Fund,” which has been set up by the family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump. Donations to the fund can also be made at any Fifth Third Bank branch. The amount raised will be used to assist the Brown family ”with costs that they will acquire as they seek justice on Michael’s behalf.” According to the GoFundMe.com page, “these funds will not be used for legal fees; all funds will be given to the family of Michael Brown.” The online account has raised $232,828 by 8,074 people for the past 11 days. It is unclear how much they have raised offline.
Davidson DeMarco, a friend of the Brown family started a separate page, collecting donations specifically to assist Brown’s three siblings with “physiological services and care expenses.” The page was opened on Aug.12, and as of Aug. 24, it has raised $2,283 from 62 people.
Financial support online for Wilson has in some cases been accompanied by incendiary comments, and GoFundMe shut down the comments on one Wilson support page that the company said violated its terms. At a pro-Wilson rally outside a pub in St. Louis, Missouri one supporter claimed that “many of us have received death threats toward ourselves and our families.” The woman also criticized the media for being “biased” against Wilson’s supporters, a statement that drew a loud applause from a crowd of supporters.
Brown’s family hasn’t spoken about the progress of their fundraising effort or carried out similar initiatives. In fact, in an interview yesterday on Hot 104.1 FM, a hip-hop radio station in St. Louis, Michael Brown Sr., asked supporters to call off all protests scheduled for today, the day of his son’s funeral.