The Crowdfunding site GoFundMe faces pressure to shut down fundraising campaigns collecting money for controversial police officers accused of misconduct. The site has decided to shut down a campaign seeking funds for Daniel Ken Holtzclaw, an Oklahoma City police officer accused of sexually assaulting six women while on duty. But the site refused to stop the campaign raising funds for Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot and killed unarmed teen Michael Brown last month. The “Support Officer Wilson” fundraising efforts have amassed over $500,000 on GoFundMe and Facebook.
Holtzclaw, a 27-year-old former college football player, is facing charges of rape, sexual battery, forcible oral sodomy, and stalking. The women were all African-American, between the ages of 34 and 58. Holtzclaw is at the center of a fervent social media campaign including a Facebook page and GoFundMe campaign launched by his sister Jenny Holtzclaw, which raised more than $7,000 in nine days before it was shut it down.
Kelsea Little, a spokeswoman for GoFundMe, told the LA Times simply that the site conducts internal content reviews of campaigns in the event of a high volume of complaints.
The decision to shut down the Holtzclaw campaign contrasts GoFundMe’s handling of the Wilson campaign. Despite intense criticism that it was collecting “reward money for a lynching”, boycott threats and more than 100,000 ColorOfChange.org members calling on GoFundMe to remove the Wilson donation pages and return all profits, the company took no clear steps beyond deleting racist comments. GoFundMe remained resolute in its assertion that pro-Wilson fundraising efforts do not violate its terms. In fact, GoFundMe even doubled-down on its defense of the Wilson fundraisers in a blogpost.
“GoFundMe did the right thing by taking down the Daniel Holtzclaw fundraiser, and we urge them to follow suit with Darren Wilson — removing the pages once and for all and returning all profits. GoFundMe’s defense of the Darren Wilson fundraisers has been appalling,” says Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorOfChange.org. “There is no such thing as a ‘neutral technology platform.’ By facilitating with Darren Wilson and his supporters, the company is taking a side.”
Robinson adds, “The Darren Wilson GoFundMe pages lower the social and financial costs of killing Black men and boys. They send the message that you will be supported in the aftermath of taking Black life. We’ve seen this before when Trayvon Martin was murdered.”
Robinson also urges the company update its ‘Terms and Conditions’ so that perpetrators of racially-motivated or sexual violence can never fundraise on the platform again. “The ColorOfChange community will be paying close attention to what GoFundMe does next, and are ready to escalate our campaign if we’re met with silence or inadequate responses.”
However, the site is no longer collecting money. The Support Officer Darren Wilson campaign, which raised over $235,000 of its $300,000 goal, has stopped accepting donations without any explanation. According to the LA Times reports, a GoFundMe spokesman was quick to point out that the company was not responsible for halting donations.
Also, the Facebook page Support Darren Wilson stopped accepting donations on Saturday, with more than $430,000 having been raised. A Facebook post promoting Wilson T-shirts and other merchandise sates, “Please redirect Badges for Darren to the Ferguson PD. Thank you for your continued support. We understand that there will be many unanswered questions and concerns and we will update supporters as soon as we have the answers.”