by Wade Rathke
New Orleans Whether it’s a moment or a movement, some things are different this time than they have been in the past. One encouraging and crucial difference is the fact that the money is coming from the small donors interested in change rather than control. This time it’s the public, not institutions, churches, the wealthy, and foundations that are fueling the action with funds. This is the Bernie Sanders small donor machine applied directly to social change, and what a difference it might make.
Read deeply any history of the civil rights or anti-war movement, and you will find terrible stories of the desperate efforts to raise bail money for civil disobedience arrests. Houses and land mortgaged and lost. Midnight runs were made with cash form Atlanta or local church collections in nickels and dimes matched with funds from some church denominations. According to the New York Times, local bail funds in Brooklyn raised $1.8 million in 24-hours, more than $2.4 million in Philadelphia and $2 million in Los Angeles for a local chapter of Black Lives Matter. The Minnesota Freedom Fund, “a cash bail fund, raised a stunning $20 million in four days…and another $10 million came in…from nearly one million individuals…” ActBlue processed $250 million over a two-week period, and it confirming that “racial justice causes and bail funds had led the way.” In Blackout Tuesday, “ActBlue doubled what had been, before this month, its one-day record: raising $41 million in 24 hours.” Two national bail funds “received a combined $90 million over two weeks.” Where the contributions went to on-line organizations like Color of Change, which “quadrupled its membership to 7 million people from 1.7 million in recent days.”
Let me tell you all, this is huge! Regular people spending from their hearts and going deep in their pockets to support mass protests during a pandemic depression when record numbers are unemployed. People are demanding change. They are demanding a voice without asking to control the direction of the organizations and individuals taking the action.
The freedom this gives people – and their organizations – to act as they see best without apology or submitting endless proposals to outside funders is huge. They can do what has to be done, at least for a little while, without arguments about tactics or messaging from well-intentioned but irrelevant advice from outsiders. They can do the work, spend the money, and feel the love by going directly to people for support. This could be a gamechanger for social change not only now, but in the future.
Money matters. Thanks to everyone for stepping up!