The clashes between police and protestors in Ferguson, Missouri have calmed down a bit since breaking out following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. While most are waiting on the grand jury in Ferguson to make a decision on possible charges in the incident, others haven’t stopped making noise or supporting those on either side.
One of the bigger headlines over the past few days has been the rise of support for Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown. The responses range somewhere from the reserved, but vocal type that you see above to the insane and misguided that might spew from the mouth of those trying to capitalize on the tragedy in Ferguson.
The video above was from a rally in St. Louis connected to the fundraiser on GoFundMe titled “Support Officer Darren Wilson.” Despite holding tight to anonymity and keeping to the shadows since the protests began, supporters for Wilson have raised a mass sum of money to go towards helping Wilson and his family. The original fundraiser raised nearly $235k before GoFundMe stepped away and the St. Louis Shield Of Hope charity stepped in with another that has raised over $100k to this point:
Welcome supporters of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson! We thank you so very much for your support! Every donation, kind word and prayer are deeply appreciated! This page will replace the previous “Support Officer Wilson” page, so that donations will be tax deductible through “Shield of Hope”, a certified charity, and the official non-profit organization accepting donations for Officer Wilson at this time.
Now from what you see above and in that statement, you might believe that this is a group that is standing entirely for what they believe to be right. For me, it feels a bit misguided and silly to ask for innocence before guilt when another wasn’t offered the same concession before being shot dead. But there’s no firm evidence, so no one can officially quote on what happened that day except for the people keeping quiet.
What I can point out are the comments on the GoFundMe page. They were one of the reasons the site was urged to distance itself from the charity drive in the first place and for good reason:
The comments were alleged to break GoFundMe’s terms of service, leaving many critical of their decision to hold it while still taking five percent of all donations. That’s what led to the change and probably what has led to all current donations staying anonymous. None of it reads like a primer on constitutional issues.
None of it is a surprise. The real surprise comes from how this drive has surpassed the funds raised in memorial of Michael Brown. From USA Today:
This amount surpasses the more than $214,000 raised in support of the Michael Brown Memorial Fund. According to the page, which was set up by Brown family lawyer Benjamin Crump, “the funds will assist his family with costs that they will acquire as they seek justice on Michael’s behalf.”
The surge raises questions on how and why this is happening. One reason would be police involvement. Shield Of Hope is a charity run by the local police union that raises funds to be “allocated to officers in times of need.” From Buzzfeed:
The nonprofit shares the same address as the police union. When asked whether Missouri unions were supporting the GoFundMe account, a representative for the state Missouri Fraternal Order of Police told BuzzFeed “that account is run by Lodge 15.”
The nonprofit database Guidestar describes Shield of Hope as the “Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 15 Charitable Foundation,” and lists the nonprofit’s address in St. Louis. That address is the same as police union’s.
Earlier this week, a user on the Facebook page I Support Officer Wilson directed people to “mail any donations” to Lodge 15 with “Attention: Shield of Hope.” A post from another Missouri police union earlier this week also directed donations to Shield of Hope, with a typo in the address.
Ferguson Police Department’s Public Relations Officer Timothy Zoll serves on the board of Shield of Hope…
It is also insightful when you see tweets like this one from Shaun King:
Of course, it is impossible to pinpoint exactly why the fundraiser for Wilson is marching along ahead of any of the others in Ferguson. As The Washington Post points out, the donations are pointing towards something larger than just the events of August 9th:
Why has Wilson’s page proved so wildly popular? That’s hard to say exactly. But donor after donor evokes the same justifications: support for law enforcement, religious conviction, or a belief that everyone should be “innocent until proven guilty.” Again and again, the big-money donors drop references to God, the “real America,” the meddling of the media, and the alleged cowardice or poor leadership of the president.
Of course, donors on either side represent only a small, self-selected minority: a group of people who (a) really, passionately care about the issues, and (b) care enough not only to donate, but to affix a comment to it. We don’t know how representative these opinions are or how keenly they’re felt in the population at large.
But we do know that, in a recent national survey, 80 percent of black respondents said Ferguson raised issues about race — while only 37 percent of white respondents agreed. And we certainly know that, far from a simple investigation into a police shooting, Ferguson has come to represent much greater existential issues.
It’s easy to say a situation isn’t about race because it makes it a lot easier to remove any sort of driving force from behind what happened, except for the events that happened. At the same time you have comments and donations being made like you see above, you have racist statements forcing suspensions for other officers in Ferguson, and you have rogue KKK groups raising their own funds for Wilson. It all contradicts that logic.
Apart from those clear examples, you have a divide working its way into the situation. There’s a clear racial divide that exists, even if we’re not talking about it. It’s clearly there without acknowledgement because you can see it in action, from the video above and in the protests.
More importantly, there’s the political divide. That class divide. The Killer Mike interview from CNN really highlighted that aspect and it’s been growing since major network coverage descended onto the situation. When you have people like Dinesh D’Souza jumping into interviews to compare Ferguson protesters to members of ISIS, something is wrong.
It’s not going to end either. It’s one thing to highlight when this stuff is happening and trying to keep it fair, but there is also a love for this kind of behavior. It sells. Pitting ‘us versus them’ is effective, but it also covers up the issue that sparked it all in the first place.
I don’t believe there will be any real sense of justice for Michael Brown at this point and I don’t believe Darren Wilson will find some sort of normalcy in his life when this case quiets down. And there certainly won’t be some sort of solution regarding racial and political issues associated with this event. It might be cynical to say that, but the evidence is there. If anything, I really want to be wrong.