How George Floyd's death exposed the cracks in BLM

How George Floyd’s death exposed cracks in BLM: Outrage over his killing galvanized the movement and raised $90m – but it also revealed the organization’s ties to a convicted terrorist, the ‘Marxist’ founder’s property empire and claims of ‘fraud’

  • Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all counts of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd 
  • BLM was founded in 2013 after the killing of Trayvon Martin by white man George Zimmermann 
  • Today, its mission is to ‘eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities’ 
  • It started largely as a hashtag but is now a multi-faceted organization that last year raised $90million 
  • The organization says it spends $8.1million on staffing among other things, but it doesn’t give a break down 
  • One of the founders –  Patrisse Cullors – owns $3million worth of property – she insists she bought it with money that had nothing to do with the charity 
  • The uprising that it led last year brought down Confederate statues and had schools and parks renamed
  • But the movement and organization hasn’t been without controversy or criticism
  • It has ties to Susan Rosenberg, who spent 16 years in prison for weapons and explosives charges  

The killing of George Floyd by cop Derek Chauvin in May last year galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement, making it a household name around the world and raising millions for an organization that many had never heard of before. 

But as people rushed to support the cause, horrified by Floyd’s killing and other instances of racism in America and beyond, cracks began to appear in the organization that, in the last 12 years, has reshaped much of the country. 

When it first launched, BLM sought to bring attention to and prevent police violence against African Americans. 

Today, it describes its mission as one that will ‘eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes’. 

It’s because of the issues spearheaded by BLM and its organizers that schools have been renamed, statues have been torn down and industry rules have been entirely rewritten.  

Supporters say the organization is finally correcting decades of injustice and rebalancing the scales. Critics say they are trying to rewrite history and erase any indicator of white success, particularly in America. 

Over the last 12 months, troubling truths about the organization have emerged including its ties to convicted domestic terrorist Susan Lisa Rosenberg, who was part of the May 19th Communist Organization that wanted to overthrow the government in the 1970s and 1980s. 

There are also questions over the organization’s opaque financials. 

A Black Lives Matter protest in Austin, Texas, on July 26, 2020. It wad one of thousands of events, marches and protests where the movement’s activists appeared over the last year as a cultural shift swept America 

One of the organization’s founders, Patrisse Cullors, tearfully defended owning multiple homes worth a combined total of $3million after questions arose over how she paid for them. 

She insists she’s never been paid by the charity branch of the organization, but has received $120,000 from the movement between 2013 and 2019. 

BLM founders Alica Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors on the cover of TIME last year. They started the organization in 2013 in outrage over the acquittal of George Zimmermann, who killed Trayvon Martin 

She said she was paid as a spokesperson and for ‘political education work’, but that the bulk of her income comes from other jobs.  

Earlier this week, the family of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by Kentucky cops as she slept in her Louisville apartment in March – months before Floyd’s death – say the organization is a ‘fraud’ which has ‘never done a damn thing’ for them.  

’I have never personally dealt with BLM Louisville and personally have found them to be fraud, (state Rep.) Attica Scott another fraud,’ her mother Tamika Palmer wrote on Facebook, in reference to her local chapter of the organization, last week. She has since removed the post. 

BLM was founded in 2013 by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. They describe themselves on the organization’s website as ‘radical Black organizers’ who came together in outrage over the acquittal of the George Zimmerman, who shot dead Trayvon Martin in 2012.

In other interviews, they describe themselves as ‘trained Marxists’. 

In its infancy, BLM was a hashtag used to sum up feelings of frustration against systemic racism. 

After the police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown Jr. in 2014, it gained more traction online and was often seen with the hashtags ‘#HandsUpDontShoot’ and ‘#ICantBreathe.’ 

BLM gained more followers in 2014 after the killing of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri. That killing led to nights of rioting (above)

BLM largely started as a hashtag. As more police killings of black American men happened, it grew in support online 

Now, there are more than 40 chapters around the world and the organization has three parts to it – The BLM Global Network Foundation, BLM PAC, and BLM Grassroots. 

Between them, they raided $90million in donations in 2020 and spent $8.1million. 

Nowhere on the organization’s website do they offer a detailed breakdown of expenses. 

Patrissee Cullors, one of the founders, describing herself as a ‘trained Marxist’ in a 2015 interview. She also has $3million worth of property which she says she bought with money that has nothing to do with the charity 

In their 2020 Impact Report, the organization says the number ‘represents dollars spent on staffing, operating and administrative expenses, civic engagement, programs and field expenses, rapid response, and crisis intervention’. 

‘After our expenses and grant disbursements, we are left with an approximate balance of $60 million. 

‘Returning to fiscal sustainability, it is important that an organization not end its year at a balance of $0. 

‘Few foundations will disburse more than 8% of their total assets; for BLMGNF to have committed 23% of its assets is groundbreaking,’ organizers say, justifying their spending and financials in the impact report,’ they say. 

They go on: ‘We are no longer a small, scrappy movement. We are an institution. We are mature. 

‘We are a growing entity developing its stake in the philanthropic world. We are entering spaces previously unimaginable. We want to show folks that we have a voice here, and that our voice carries weight.’ 

They point to a single campaign that cost $2million as one of their justified expenses. 

A Black Lives Matter painting is seen on 16th street near the White House as protests against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, continue in Washington, U.S., June 5, 2020

BLM has over 40 chapters. It made $90million in donations last year and spent $8.1million but it won’t give a detailed breakdown on where exactly the money went 

BLM did not respond to’s inquiries on Tuesday about how much it spends on what.  

Questions of spending arose earlier this year after tens of millions of dollars were raised following Floyd’s death.

The BLM LA Chapter sought to answer some of those questions on GoFundMe in June 2020. 

‘Some questions have recently come around how funds are being spent. To be honest, until the last month, we had received relatively little in donation support, and had to significantly augment our work with funds from the pockets of volunteers. 

‘To be clear, to date, BLMLA has been powered by volunteers. No one earns a salary. We do this work because we see it as our “sacred duty.”

‘With the murder of #GeorgeFloyd, people have been extremely generous and we have received more donations in the last month than we had in the entire seven years of our existence.

‘So what have we done with the recent donations? This movement-moment has been intense,’ chapter organizer Melina Abdullah wrote. 

The donations, she said, were spent on;  modest support to the families of those killed by police, materials for protests, rallies, demonstrations, and events, tech support/upgrades, security and food for gatherings and mutual aid. 

But she also said it was spent on interns and ‘transportation for families and volunteers.’ Both she and the main organization say that the vast majority of funds have not been spent yet. 

There have also been questions over some of the figures attached to it. Susan Rosenberg, for example, who is on the board of one Thousand Currents. 

Rosenberg was a member of the M19CO – the May 19 Communist Organization. She spent 16 years in prison on weapons and explosives charges before receiving a pardon from Bill Clinton in January 2001.

She was due to serve 58 years. 

Thousand Currents has a tax exemption where BLM doesn’t. For that reason, among others, they teamed up and Thousand Currents acted as a sponsor for the organization. 

When Rosenberg’s affiliation to it was made public last year, critics – including Rudy Giuliani – were up in arms. 

‘Black Lives Matter is an organization run by three Marxists and financed by a convicted terrorist – who I happened to have convicted, who got 58 years in jail and got a corrupt pardon from Bill Clinton. 

‘This is not a benign organization. I can’t say yet that we can prove it’s a terrorist organization. It’s certainly a violent organization and I believe in the course of time it will be shown to be a terrorist organization,’ he said.  

Along with calls for justice came calls to defund entire police forces. Above, protesters outside City Hall in New York City, where protesters sat for days, vandalized property and had clashes with cops 

Susan Rosenberg is on the board of Thousand Currents – an organization which helps manage BLM’s donations. She was also part of a group in the 1960s and 1970s that the FBI said was actively trying to overthrow the government. She was sentenced to 58 years in prison but served 16 then had her sentence commuted by Bill Clinton 

The Confederate Soldiers & Sailors Monument statue is lowered to the ground in Libby Hill Park, Wednesday, July 8, 2020. It was one of many statutes that was taken down in the wake of the movement

They defended the association.  

‘We provide administrative and back-office support, including finance, accounting, grants management, insurance, human resources, legal and compliance. 

‘Donations to BLM are restricted donations to support the activities of BLM,’ a spokesman for the charity told Politifact last year. 

Online, Thousand Currents said that it had been subjected to ‘attacks’ from the ‘right wing media’. 

The organization is just one part of a much wider movement that started as outrage over racism and has given way to cancel culture across the country and around the world. 

Last summer, amid heightened tensions across the US, there was a marked cultural shift in America: companies lined up to throw their support behind BLM and others. 

There were widespread calls to defund police forces all over the country. 

It came at a period of increased anxiety in the country because of the COVID-19 pandemic and amid growing political uncertainty ahead of the November Presidential Election. q

Since the events of last summer, there have been radical changes at almost every level of American society as a result of the issues BLM stands for. 

Now, many – particularly Conservatives – say it is going too far. 

Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor’s mother, fumed on April 14 that BLM in Louisville has given her family no help 

Some have pulled their children out of private schools where classes and courses have been completely redesigned. 

Others have protested over the decision to rename schools and playing fields, or tear down statues in southern towns that were named after Confederate figures. 

In San Francisco, for example, the Board of Education, earlier this month reversed its decision to rename dozens of schools because they were named after historical figures that they decided were now racist or represented oppression. 

The decision was reversed after criticism over the fact the researchers consulted Wikipedia instead of historians.  

 BLM founder Patrisse Cullors owns more than $3million in properties. She insists she bought them legitimately and didn’t use any of the organization’s money on it

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