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Somerville students raise over £30 000 to support George Floyd protesters

A Facebook fundraising page started by Somerville students to provide legal support to protesters in the USA has raised over £30,000 since Saturday.

The donations go to the National Laws Guild Inc, a non-profit in the US which provides legal support to advance human and civil rights. They are working with other charities including the Minnesota Freedom Fund to provide essential support to those protesting after the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis last week.

The fundraiser initially aimed to raise £2,000 to help “mitigate the harmful and deathly impacts of the criminal justice system against black people and those that stand up to oppressive structures.”

It raised over £1,000 in less than an hour and raised over £10,000 in less than 24 hours. It is still rapidly growing at over £30,000. The team plans to encourage donations to the fundraiser for two weeks.

The fundraiser page explains: “The American criminal justice system disproportionately affects black people in America, as institutional racism often puts them in closer proximity to poverty. Some cannot afford bail, or private attorneys. They are placed in jails before their trials where they face the risk of death every day. Given the COVID-19 situation, and the difficulty of social distancing in jails, protesters being jailed could be even more life-threatening than it usually is. (See the stories of Kalief Browder and Sandra Bland).”

“The ten-minute-long video of George Floyd’s murder was proliferated on many social media websites; he could be heard clearly shouting that he couldn’t breathe. This followed the racist shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, murder of Breonna Taylor by police and the attempt by Amy Cooper to call the police on Christian Cooper; she told him she would call the police and tell them that an African American man was threatening her life. For many the sequence of events was pertinent; Christian Cooper’s encounter could have been fatal, George Floyd’s encounter was fatal.”

The Fundraising Team told Cherwell: “What we witnessed in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the publicity of the #BlackLivesMatter movement were many public declarations of solidarity using social media. We are firm believers that activism requires action and wanted to create a means for people to do that; this was the main motivation for creating the fundraiser.

“Statements on social media are an important thing for black people to see because for so long many have felt that issues of racism are often ignored, but we felt that there is more to solidarity than words alone.

“Danielle first approached Nadia, Ibti, and Cara with the idea of putting forward one of these charities to our JCR because there was an opportunity for an extra-ordinary charity ballot. After asking around and making some enquires it was clear that the bureaucracy involved would stop charities getting the funds in a timely fashion; it was then we moved to the idea of a fundraiser. Emma then heard that we were thinking about putting forward a charity motion and offered her help.

“We worked together to write the description for the fundraiser and spoke to the Minnesota Freedom Fund to find out if they were happy for us to use Facebook. They pointed us in the direction of other charities they were working with (Black Visions Collective, Reclaim the Block, Legal Rights Center), as they had been inundated with funds. After a brief Twitter search we found out that the National Lawyers Guild were being suggested as the main point of contact for protestors and we decided to go with this charity.

“We did not expect the fundraiser to gain so much traction and even began with the meagre goal of £2000, but after raising over half the amount in one hour we began steadily upping our goal. We can only thank the Oxford Black community and everyone else who shared the fundraiser.

“It is amazing to see how much has been raised and the support from students all over the UK and the World, but this is by no means the end. We hope that people don’t just donate to this fundraiser and move on, but rather take it as a step to becoming actively anti-racist. Black people don’t get to forget about things and move on because the systemic and structural nature of racism and white supremacy permeates every aspect of their lives.”

Read Melanie Onovo, Imogen Taylor, and Nigel Yau’s Silence is complicit, but so is inaction: Why JCRs and British institutions must act now here. Read Reem Sultan’s The Open Casket of George Floyd here. Read Ti Balanta’s Anti-blackness: a performative business here.

Image credit to Leonhard Lenz / Wikimedia Commons.

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