Overview: June 2020
The Michigan Solidarity Bail Fund is a project developed in the aftermath of the mobilization against white supremacists in Lansing in March 2018, when people from around the country generously donated to support those who had been arrested in defense of their communities. MSBF has been working over the last year to develop capacity, has some funds already available, and has now set up a mechanism for donations. We stand with those who put their bodies on the line against the terror of a white supremacist police state, and we intend to support as many people as we can who are targeted by the police in the coming days. Our aim is to assist people statewide, with a focus on areas with unmet needs—recognizing, for instance, that the Detroit Justice Center’s Bail Project is attending to cases in Detroit, and that others may continue to set up fundraisers for specific situations. We encourage anyone with information on a need for support with pretrial detention to contact us at: michigansolidaritybailfund [at] gmail [dot] com
The Michigan Solidarity Bail Fund (MSBF) is a “revolving fund” that is intended to support people who have been arrested and charged with crimes in Michigan. Bail money is returned once a case is concluded as long as the person charged appears at their court dates, which means that ideally the same money can be reused later on to bail someone else out.
Due to external constraints (like the availability of funds and the turnover time of the legal process), we may find ourselves in a situation in which we have to make choices with limited resources. Borrowing from and building on other bail funds around the country, we have developed the following criteria to guide these decisions about who to assist. Although there is no clear formula for making these difficult if not impossible decisions, we will weigh these interactive factors as best we can to determine our capacity to support those who request bail assistance. In developing these criteria, we have borrowed from and built on the foundational work of other similar projects around the country, especially in Chicago, Atlanta, and Oakland.
- Amount of bond
- Court location/travel needs
- Ability to pay bond, including access to family or community resources
- Support system, such as assistance making court dates
- Willingness to assist with raising money to cover any anticipated court costs, fines, or fees that will not be refunded to the bond fund
- Risk of victimization in jail, including but not limited to gender, sexuality, race, disability, age, etc.
- Health needs, such as pregnancy, chronic medical conditions, or ongoing mental health treatment
- Immigration status and potential immigration consequences of detention or criminal conviction
- Dependents or other family members who may be exposed to harm, including risk of custody loss or Children’s Protective Services (CPS) involvement
- Potential impact of detention on applicant’s employment, housing, education, and/or custodial rights
- Political character of arrest and charges, and possible implications within the broader political context
- Referral from trusted comrades/organizations
The Michigan Solidarity Bail Fund originated in the aftermath of March 5th, 2018, when an antifascist coalition shut down a planned white nationalist speaking event on the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing. Fascists had billed March 5th as their next step forward after the previous summer’s bloodshed in Charlottesville. Instead it marked the decisive end to a wave of public organizing for the alt-right. This community victory over racist street organizing was secured through the hard work and coordination of countless people from around the state, the region, and the country, but it came at the cost of multiple arrests. Following a predictable pattern, police targeted those who had come out to defend themselves and their neighbors, charging several with felonies and detaining them in unsafe conditions for more than 24 hours.
Comrades scrambled to raise the necessary bail funds and to navigate the process of getting the antifascist arrestees out of jail. Generous support, monetary and otherwise, flowed in from many directions and persisted for months until all the legal cases were resolved.
We showed up for each other, and we got through it. As members of the coalition who organized to defend Lansing against a resurgent far right, we continue to draw inspiration from this show of solidarity and collective power. And we want to carry the same spirit forward in resisting structural violence that harms members of our communities every day. We recognize deep connections between the fight against emergent fascism and the struggle to abolish an existing carceral order where pre-trial detention serves to criminalize poverty, to punish vulnerability, and to extend the traumas of white supremacy. The hustling required in the wake of March 5th to raise the necessary funds and to learn how to interface with the unforgiving state bureaucracy also highlights a need for bail infrastructure within our movements and our communities.
Whether arrests take place at public demonstrations or in everyday spaces subject to state surveillance and violence, the same oppressive systems are at work. On March 5th we won an amazing victory against those forces together. Now, by taking small but concrete steps to empty Michigan’s cages, we’ll keep building toward the world we want to see.
The Michigan Solidarity Bail Fund is a small collective with members from around the state who are engaged in anti-prison, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist organizing and who are committed to utilizing this fund to bail out those most in need and most at risk. We encourage anyone who knows someone currently being held in pretrial detention to reach out to us. We also encourage people who fear that there may be arrests at an upcoming demonstration or protest to reach out to the Michigan Solidarity Bail Fund prior to the time of action if they wish to request funds for bail.