GoFundMe for Ferguson: Pro-Wilson Donations Top Mike Brown’s by 3 to 2

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August 23, 2014;Baltimore Sun

This past weekend, an online fundraising campaign on the GoFundMe crowdfunding site on behalf of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson ended after collecting $234,910. Nearly six thousand persons donated, with an average donation of $39.81.

With the end of this GoFundMe campaign, fundraising for Wilson has been taken up by Shield of Hope, a nonprofit affiliated with a local Missouri chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police. The Shield of Hope fundraising page, also on GoFundMe, offers the advantage of tax deductibility for donations due to Shield’s 501(c)(3). The Shield of Hope fundraiser, as of 6pm Eastern on Sunday, August 24th, raised an additional $133,318 toward a goal of $200,000 from 2,952 donors in just three days. In addition to the money raised through GoFundMe, Wilson supporters have also organized “Support Darren Wilson” t-shirt campaigns through Teespring.

GoFundMe took a lot of heat from critics for hosting the Support Officer Wilson campaign, in part because so many of the donations were accompanied by clearly objectionable, racially derogatory comments aimed at Mike Brown, his parents, and the population of Ferguson. (The comments function has since been disabled for both the original campaign site and the new one for donations through Shield of Hope.)


A GoFundMe campaign site for the Michael Brown Memorial Fund has raised $232,153 from 8,061 donors as of 6pm Eastern on August 24th. The comment function has not been disabled on the GoFundMe page for Mike Brown, and our review of a couple hundred of the donations showed comments that were nearly all support and condolences for the Brown family, with no racial or ethnic slurs directed at anyone.

Some activists have added to the pushback against GoFundMe, choosing to abandon the site so long as it hosts the Wilson fundraiser. One example, a fundraiser campaign to purchase 500 Sudecon wipes (tear gas treatment packets) for Ferguson protesters, has asked donors to give through a different site instead.

The third-largest donation to the Support Darren Wilson campaign came from the Anne Arundel County, Maryland chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police. The Anne Arundel Police Chief, Kevin Davis, issued a statement criticizing the donation—notable because it came the day after he appeared at a meeting of the local NAACP to discuss the meaning of Ferguson for policing.

The controversy over the Wilson fundraising raises questions about crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe. With a five percent cut of the Wilson donations, GoFundMe has a financial stake in seeing the fundraising campaigns for Officer Wilson continue, but at what ethical cost, given that so many of the Wilson donors expressed motivations rooted in extreme racial animus? Perhaps the larger question is the extent to which the GoFundMe fundraising numbers, showing more than 150 percent more money raised for the Wilson fund than the Brown fund, reflect the continuing American problem of overt racism—with crowdfunding, in this case, as the unwitting measure and instrumentality.—Rick Cohen

  • BenjaminX

    It’s sad to see how quickly our commitment to the First Amendment vanishes when we don’t like the content of the speech. And quite ironic when it comes from an organization such as NPQ. Just as sad is that you question the integrity of GoFundMe merely for allowing fundraising for Officer Wilson, even though it is impossible — at this point — to say whether or not he did anything illegal. The vehemence of the protests — and the early demands for this officer’s name and address — just highlight how all sides have jumped to conclusions that they yet have NO evidence to support either way. That is saddest of all. Do we have a problem in this country with police violence on young black men? Of course we do. Does that fact shed any light on this specific incident? Of course it does not. At this point, both sides yell in ignorance. And both sides are entitled to raise whatever money they’d like, no matter how misguided. Calling for the censorship or castigation of GoFundMe for facilitating that activity is equally misguided. How quickly we forget our principles when we disagree with someone or simply find their commentary distasteful. I hope we, as a community, are better than that hypocrisy.

  • Ken Goldstein

    As disgusted as I am by the racist comments and motivations of many (not all!) of Officer Wilson’s donors, I don’t believe gofundme has acted in any unethical way. They did the responsible thing by shutting off the comment function, as the content did not fit their community guidelines.

    But Officer Wilson’s defense fund is a legal activity, and our justice system depends on the presumption of innocence. How is it unethical to allow that process to go on?

    Is gofundme encouraging or enabling racist activity by hosting the campaign? Now that they’ve cut off the comments, I don’t think that argument can be made.

    Personally, I will be following the link to the Brown family’s fund and supporting their fight.

    But, while I join you in denouncing the racism of many (not all!) of Officer Wilson’s supporters, I cannot deny him his day in court, or access to a legal means of funding his defense.

  • Opie

    There is no violation of the First Amendment, please educate yourself on what that it is. It is perfectly valid for a private business or organization to have restrictions concerning speech. Furthermore this article is pretty factual and I see no place where it’s calling for censorship.

  • Patrick Bell

    Here’s what it means: socioeconomic inequality is endemic in our society, along with the “racial animus” that underlies it. What would be surprising is if anything else happened, other than more successful fundraising for a white person who might have over-reacted vs. an African-American who might have over-reacted. Still another tragic outcome that is either the police doing their job or police using excessive force, depending on one’s position. And precious little room for whatever can be discerned as the “truth.” W.E.B. du Bois (writing at the start of the 20th century) was right about race being the central issue in the U.S. – it just keeps going on and on and never seems to get much better. His words ring just as true as we progress through the early 21st century.