CCBF Supports the Black Lives Matter Movement in the Streets of Illinois: Over 75 Protesters Freed in Four Counties

 In General

Since Friday, May 29th, Chicago Community Bond Fund has been working around the clock to support Chicagoans participating in the recent uprisings that have swept the nation after the police murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and so many others. CCBF has been working closely with the National Lawyers Guild of Chicago and all the organizations providing jail support to released protesters outside police stations and the Cook County Jail. According to official reports and our estimates, at least 1,500 people have been arrested in protests in the last week.

As an abolitionist organization, CCBF stands in full solidarity with the actions being taken by people across the country demanding an end to police violence and access to real safety for Black communities. For far too long, most of this country has been silently complicit in police violence, consistently devaluing Black lives. The $1.75 billion the City of Chicago spends on the Chicago Police Department each year not only does not create safety but in fact make all our communities less safe by diverting resources from the things that actually would, such as free and affordable housing, physical and mental healthcare, quality schools, job training programs and community-driven economic development. We are thrilled to join communities across the country declaring that this stops now.

Update on Donations Received

Over the past several days, we have received an outpouring of support unlike anything we’ve experienced in our five years of existence. Since May 28th, CCBF has received more than $3.5 million in donations from more than 75,000 people around the world. We recognize that these donations are not solely in support of CCBF’s work but are in reality a reflection of the depth, breadth, and beauty of both the long-term organizing and the spontaneous actions taken in Chicago in the last week. We are honored that you have entrusted CCBF with these movement resources to defend people resisting police violence. We are doing everything in our power to leverage the money raised to ensure that no one protesting in support of Black Lives Matter remains trapped in the health hazard that is Cook County Jail, an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we stated from the beginning of this uprising, it is our intention and hope to pay bond for everyone arrested at the protests right now. CCBF has a long history of paying bond for people arrested at progressive and radical left demonstrations, and particularly protests against police violence. If not all of the funds raised are needed to pay bonds for protesters in Cook County, we will work to ensure they are used elsewhere or by local partners.

Because we have received so much money already, CCBF is now encouraging people who want to support the movement to donate to other local organizations. In order to achieve abolition, it will require community organizing and long-term grassroots work to build power among Black communities and their allies. Ensuring bail funds can free everyone is essential to supporting the movement, but it will not create change on its own. Please consider donating generously to other Chicago organizations, such as Circles & Ciphers, Black Lives Matter Chicago, Chicago Freedom School, Equity and Transformation, Assata’s Daughters, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), and many others building power and working towards abolition.

Many bail funds around the country have already received more donations than they can use right now. If you really want to donate to pay bail for protesters specifically, please use this vetted list to do so! Right now, three emergency funds in South Carolina are in particular need of support: Soda City Bail Fund, BLM Charleston Bail Fund, and Greenville BLM Bail Fund. Please also continue to follow the National Bail Fund Network for updates on where support is needed and funds are verified!

Update on Bonds Paid

On Monday, June 1st, we launched a court observation program to help identify members of our communities captured by the Chicago Police Department in the protests who would need their bonds paid. More than a dozen volunteers have each spent several hours each day tracking every person coming through Cook County’s Central Bond Court. The Cook County Public Defender’s Office has also been an incredible advocate for their clients and partner in helping to free them. In the evenings, after bond court, CCBF volunteers are going into the jail to pay bond for as many people as we are aware of who can be freed. It is important to understand that the majority of people arrested are being charged with misdemeanors and released without having to pay money bonds.

In the past several days, CCBF has paid nearly $200,000 to free more than 75 people from jails across our state. That includes:

Tonight our volunteers will go back into Cook County Jail to pay bond for people who were in court this afternoon. We remain committed to paying bond for every person arrested not only during the uprisings but also as a consequence of Mayor Lightfoot’s draconian curfew that has been used as means to give the Chicago Police carte blanche to stop, harass, and assault Black Chicagoans. If not all of the funds raised are needed to pay bonds for protesters in Illinois, we will work to ensure they are used elsewhere or by local partners. Chicago Community Bond Fund pledges to be transparent regarding our handling of the resources that have been entrusted to us.

Additional Context

Paying bond is not a solution to the harm caused by our racist criminal legal system, it is only one important intervention. This is why Chicago Community Bond Fund is committed to ending money bond and pretrial incarceration through systemic reforms. Many people might be surprised that we haven’t paid more bonds in the last few days, given the huge number of people arrested. First, the majority of the 1,500 people (or more) who were arrested over the past week were released directly from police custody without having to pay a money bond. This happens when either no charges are filed (“released without charges”) or because the person was accused of only a misdemeanor. For people in these categories, there is no need for CCBF’s help.

All people accused of felonies and some people accused of misdemeanors are sent to court for a bond hearing with a judge. The judge then decides whether to set a money bond, release the person without money required, release them with other conditions imposed (such as house arrest with electronic monitoring) or deny them release entirely. Right now, many people with felony cases are being released from bond court without having to pay money. This is a direct consequence of our organizing efforts over the last four years as part of the Coalition to End Money Bond. In just a few years, pressure from community organizing and impact litigation has forced a dramatic reduction in the use of money bonds and, consequently, the number of people incarcerated in Cook County Jail. In 2015, there were around 8,500 people in Cook County Jail on any given day. This spring, before COVID-19 forced more releases, there were around 5,500 people in the jail. Had this uprising happened before September 2017, when General Order 18.8A went into effect, many, many more of our most marginalized community members would be jailed pending the payment of large money bonds. Fortunately, we are winning. And we are not going to stop until we have won. 

The policy changes we have been able to win have directly benefited the people that have taken to the streets to demand justice and are also a direct result of street protests and rebellions. There is a symbiotic relationship between what happens inside courtrooms and the conversation being forced in the streets. The policy changes we have won were only possible because of the actions taken by Black community members and Black-led abolitionist organizations in the wake of Michael Brown’s murder by Ferguson police in August 2014. 

Exactly two weeks after Michael Brown’s murder, Chicago Police murdered 17 year-old DeSean Pittman on the city’s Southside. Two days later, DeSean’s family held a vigil lifting up his memory that was violently disrupted by Chicago Police. At the end of the police riot, five of DeSean’s family members were locked up in Cook County Jail due to unaffordable money bonds. Activists and legal supporters worked with DeSean’s family to free them. These events led to the founding of the Chicago Community Bond Fund in November 2015. Since our founding, we have been committed to providing support for Black-led liberation movements. 

This Saturday, June 6, 2020, will also mark the five year anniversary of another Black life stolen by our racist criminal legal system: Kalief Browder. Kalief spent more than 1,000 days incarcerated pretrial as a teenager. The trauma he experienced while in Rikers was a major cause of his later suicide. Kalief’s mother, Venida Browder, passed away only a short time thereafter due to “broken heart syndrome.” The Browder family has been clear that the stress and trauma caused by Kalief’s death ultimately took Venida’s life as well. Whether through police violence or incarceration, we must acknowledge that the U.S. criminal punishment system harms not only the individuals who are targeted but also their loved ones and their broader communities.

Our Commitment

Our society has tolerated the torment of Black communities for far too long. As Eric Garner said to New York Police mere moments before they stole his life: “It stops today.” For communities across the country risking their lives amidst a global pandemic to say “It stops today,” we stand with you.

No matter what comes next, we love you, Chicago. Together, we got this. 

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