Minnesota Freedom Fund able to put full-time focus on big goals thanks to donations

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Posted at 5:13 PM, Apr 13, 2021

A group that started bailing out protesters after the uprising last summer is now on the ground in Brooklyn Center following the police shooting that killed Daunte Wright.

The Minnesota Freedom Fund received widespread attention after the death of George Floyd.

“We need to be able to do George Floyd justice, as well as all of the members of our community who are oppressed, who are harmed, because these systems of oppression exist still,” said Mirella Ceja-Orozco, Co-Executive Director of the Minnesota Freedom Fund.

Ceja-Orozco is one of the new paid staff members of the Minnesota Freedom Fund. Before last summer, she was one of eight volunteers. At that time, the group had only one paid member and a small bail budget.

When word spread that they were bailing out protesters demonstrating in the name of George Floyd, millions of dollars in donations poured in from all over the world. Now, the group is able to put a full-time focus on bigger goals, like ending cash bail for the entire state of Minnesota.

“We don't want to keep feeding the system. Obviously, we want to use the money that we've received to pay the bails and bonds that exist as much as we can. But instead of just feeding the system, we want to end it, like where it begins,” said Ceja-Orozco.

Their new full-time staff come with backgrounds working with the ACLU.

Ceja-Orozco is an immigration attorney. She is focused on helping immigrants going through court systems without representation and facing deportation.

“The youngest person that I’ve personally seen in court was about 5 years old and they were unrepresented and luckily, you know, people stepped up, because it was just so like devastating to witness the child sit there and clearly, you know, had no understanding of what was going on,” said Ceja-Orozco.

The Minnesota Freedom Fund has now spent nearly $18 million in donations on criminal and immigration bail and bonds.

They've donated to other groups across the country, including $4.5 million to the National Bail Fund Network.

The groups believe cash bail criminalizes poverty, not only by keeping people in jail longer, often resulting in job loss, but also promoting plea deals just so the person can leave jail.