Non-profit

Minnesota Freedom Fund

Website:

mnfreedomfund.org/

Location:

MINNEAPOLIS, MN

Tax ID:

82-1214607

Formation:

2016

Founder:

Simon Cecil

The Minnesota Freedom Fund is a Minneapolis-based bail fund and nonprofit organization which serves incarcerated individuals within the state of Minnesota as well as those under detention by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). [1] Its demands include abolishing cash bail within the state of Minnesota, ending detention based on immigration or ethnic status, and “wide-scale decarceration.” [2] The fund also collaborates with several legal organizations including the Legal Rights Center and the National Lawyers Guild. [3]

History

The Minnesota Freedom Fund was founded in 2016 by Simon Cecil, a University of Minnesota student who was studying public policy and business management at the time. Between 2017 and 2018, the fund focused on posting smaller bonds for Minnesota-area inmates, some as low as $78. It managed to pay about 113 bonds in 2018, totaling over $9,000. [4] It was one of several social justice nonprofits advocating for the release of prisoners from jail systems due to COVID-19 in 2020.

Following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, the fund has placed a new focus on paying the bail for those arrested during the protests occurring in response to Floyd’s death. Between the end of May and mid-June, the Fund managed to raise over $30 million in donations. However, the group announced that it had used only $200,000 of the amount towards paying the bail for arrested protestors since the start of the George Floyd demonstrations. This has drawn backlash from critics over the organization’s lack of transparency and raised questions about how the rest of the funds are being utilized. [5]

Activities

Several notable bail payments by the fund have been made in the wake of large-scale protests across the country following the death of George Floyd. For example, Jaleel Stallings, who was arrested for shooting at police with an AK-47 during May protests in Minneapolis, was recently bailed by the MFF for $75,000. [6] According to interim executive director Greg Lewin, the fund has bailed out at least 12 protestors convicted and incarcerated during the demonstrations.

In addition to posting bail payments for protestors, the MFF has continued posting bail for those convicted of criminal charges. For example, the MFF paid a $30,000 bail for Donovan Boone, who was arrested for breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s home and assaulting her, although he never showed up for his court date following release. [7] Other bail payments include $100,00 for a woman who was charged with second-degree murder for stabbing and killing her friend, as well as $350,000 for releasing a twice-convicted rapist recently charged with kidnapping and assault. Regarding the charges of those that the fund bails out, interim executive director Lewin comments “I often don’t even look at a charge when I bail someone out. I will see it after I pay the bill because it is not the point. The point is the system we are fighting.” [8]

Funding

The bail fund has received support and donations from several Hollywood actors including Seth Rogan, Steve Carell, Janelle Monae, Patton Oswalt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Don Cheadle. [9]

Around the end of May, roughly 13 staffers from the presidential campaign for former vice president Joe Biden announced online that they donated to the Minnesota Freedom Fund. Biden’s campaign website details the presidential candidate’s opposition to a cash bail system, calling it a “modern day debtors prison.” [10] In addition, Biden’s running mate Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) previously promoted the bail fund on June 1 when she posted a Twitter message asking her followers to help donate: “If you are able to, chip in now to the @MNFreedomFund to help post bail for those protesting on the ground in Minnesota.” [11]

The MFF has also begun to encourage donations to other racial justice nonprofits including Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block, with the latter in favor of defunding the Minneapolis police department to “strengthen community-led safety initiatives and reduce reliance on police departments.” [12]

Tonja Honsey was the previous executive director of the MFF. On June 19, 2020, it was announced that Honsey would no longer be working with the Fund. It is believed that her dismissal was due to allegations that she lied about her identity as an indigenous woman. [13] An accountability statement on its website reads, “We want to acknowledge and apologize for the harm that we caused to Native peoples and BIPOC communities in Minnesota by not doing our due diligence to be in the right relationship with those impacted by the harms of mass incarceration.” [14] In addition, Honsey was listed as a Soros Justice Fellow by the Open Society Foundations in 2019. [15]

Board of Directors

The current president of the board of directors is Octavia Smith, the Fund’s first employee in 2016 while working with the group’s founder Simon Cecil. She was re-elected as board president in 2020. [16] She briefly stepped down from her position on May 31 due to “disagreements about leadership” before resuming her role on June 11. [17]

Mirella Ceja-Orozco is the vice president of the board of directors. She works as an immigrant’s rights lawyer at Ojala-Barbour Law Firm, PLCC and an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota School for Law Center for New Americans. [18]

Steve Boland is the treasurer for the board and is the managing partner for Next in Nonprofits, a consulting firm working to set up social fundraisers and charities within the state of Minnesota. [19]

Rashard Zanders is the board secretary and a journalist covering stories on marginalized communities. [20]

Michael Friedman is a member of the board of directors and was the executive director for social justice nonprofit Legal Rights Center. [21]

Jared Mollenkof is a public defender “fighting for black and queer liberation through the dismantling of the prison system.” [22]

Deron Carrington is a member of the MMF’s board and is an attorney with the Ramsey County Defender’s Office in St. Paul, Minnesota. Prior to this, he was a legal research analyst with Thompson Reuters focused on studying criminal litigation. [23]

Evan Tsai is a member of the MMF’s board as well as a United States Marine veteran. In addition, he was an assistant public defender in Ramsey county, Minnesota, and an adjunct law professor with William Mitchell College of Law. [24]

References

  1. “Mission.” Minnesota Freedom Fund. Accessed August 11, 2020. https://mnfreedomfund.org/mission ^
  2. “Mission.” Minnesota Freedom Fund. Accessed August 11, 2020. https://mnfreedomfund.org/mission ^
  3. Dickson, EJ. “George Floyd Killing: How to Help Minneapolis Protesters.” Rolling Stone. May 29, 2020. https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/george-floyd-minneapolis-police-minnesota-freedom-fund-1007368/ ^
  4. Fagneson, Zachary. “Minnesota Freedom Fund: What to Know About the Organization That Raised $20 Million Amid George Floyd Protests.” Complex. June 3, 2020. https://www.complex.com/life/what-is-the-minnesota-freedom-fund-explainer ^
  5. Bromwich, Jonah Engel. “The Minnesota Freedom Fund Has $30 Million and an Identity Crisis.” The New York Times. June 16, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/16/style/minnesota-freedom-fund-donations.html ^
  6. McArdle, Mairead. “Minnesota Freedom Fund Bails Out Violent Criminals Along With Protesters.” National Review. August 11, 2020. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/minnesota-freedom-fund-bails-out-violent-criminals-along-with-protesters/ar-BB17Qe9H?ocid=uxbndlbing ^
  7. McArdle, Mairead. “Minnesota Freedom Fund Bails Out Violent Criminals Along With Protesters.” National Review. August 11, 2020. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/minnesota-freedom-fund-bails-out-violent-criminals-along-with-protesters/ar-BB17Qe9H?ocid=uxbndlbing ^
  8. McArdle, Mairead. “Minnesota Freedom Fund Bails Out Violent Criminals Along With Protesters.” National Review. August 11, 2020. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/minnesota-freedom-fund-bails-out-violent-criminals-along-with-protesters/ar-BB17Qe9H?ocid=uxbndlbing ^
  9. Torres, Libby. Drake, Chrissy Teigen, and Steve Carell are just some of the stars who’ve donated to bail-relief funds across the US. June 8, 2020. https://www.insider.com/minnesota-protests-celebrity-donations-george-floyd-reactions-2020-5#:~:text=Celebrities%20like%20Seth%20Rogen%2C%20Janelle%20Mon%C3%A1e%2C%20and%20Don,donations%20to%20organizations%20like%20the%20Minnesota%20Freedom%20Fund. ^
  10. Olson, Tyler. “Minn. group that saw $$ surge, some from Biden staffers, bailed out alleged violent criminals: report.” August 10, 2020. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/minnesota-group-that-saw-surge-including-from-biden-staffers-bailed-out-alleged-violent-criminals-report ^
  11. Zanotti, Emily. REPORT: Kamala Harris-Backed Minneapolis Freedom Fund Bailed Out Dangerous Criminals Along With Protesters. The Daily Wire. August 12, 2020. https://www.dailywire.com/news/report-kamala-harris-backed-minneapolis-freedom-fund-bailed-out-dangerous-criminals-along-with-protesters ^
  12. Brinlee, Morgan. Where To Donate To Help The Black Lives Matter Movement Right Now. Romper. June 1, 2020. https://www.romper.com/p/where-to-donate-to-help-the-black-lives-matter-movement-right-now-22948185/note]

    Leadership

    The current interim executive director is Grew Lewin, who previously served as the president of the board of directors. [note]“Meet the Team.” Minnesota Freedom Fund. Accessed August 12, 2020. https://mnfreedomfund.org/meet-the-team ^

  13. Bromwich, Jonah Engel. “The Minnesota Freedom Fund Has $30 Million and an Identity Crisis.” The New York Times. June 16, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/16/style/minnesota-freedom-fund-donations.html ^
  14. “Accountability Statement.” Minnesota Freedom Fund. Accessed August 11, 2020. https://mnfreedomfund.org/accountability-statement ^
  15. Hooten, Kyle. George Soros Associated With Effort To Spring Minnesota Rioters From Jail. Alphanews. June 10, 2020. https://alphanewsmn.com/soros-associated-rioters/ ^
  16. “Meet the Team.” Minnesota Freedom Fund. Accessed August 12, 2020. https://mnfreedomfund.org/meet-the-team ^
  17. Ballard, Kelli. “Minnesota Freedom Fund: Funny Business With Donor Dollars.” Liberty Nation. June 18, 2020. https://www.libertynation.com/minnesota-freedom-fund-funny-business-with-donor-dollars/ ^
  18. “Meet the Team.” Minnesota Freedom Fund. Accessed August 12, 2020. https://mnfreedomfund.org/meet-the-team ^
  19. “Meet the Team.” Minnesota Freedom Fund. Accessed August 12, 2020. https://mnfreedomfund.org/meet-the-team ^
  20. “Meet the Team.” Minnesota Freedom Fund. Accessed August 12, 2020. https://mnfreedomfund.org/meet-the-team ^
  21. “Meet the Team.” Minnesota Freedom Fund. Accessed August 12, 2020. https://mnfreedomfund.org/meet-the-team ^
  22. “Meet the Team.” Minnesota Freedom Fund. Accessed August 12, 2020. https://mnfreedomfund.org/meet-the-team ^
  23. “Meet the Team.” Minnesota Freedom Fund. Accessed August 12, 2020. https://mnfreedomfund.org/meet-the-team ^
  24. “Meet the Team.” Minnesota Freedom Fund. Accessed August 12, 2020. https://mnfreedomfund.org/meet-the-team ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: October 1, 2017

  • Available Filings

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Minnesota Freedom Fund

    PO BOX 6398
    MINNEAPOLIS, MN 55406-0398