Police in Minnesota arrested Valentina Dianne McKenzie, the chair of the Minnesota Freedom Fund on charges of possession of fentanyl. The MFF provides funds for individuals who are under arrest and unable to afford bail. The organization was once touted by Vice President Kamala Harris who tweeted in support of MFF during the violent Black Lives Matter protests in Minnesota.
ICYM – BLM Minnesota Freedom Fund (MFF) Chair Valentina McKenzie, praised by Kamala Harris was arrested for fentanyl & an open package of marijuana in a motor vehicle.
The MMF received more than $35 million, it was promoted by celebrities, & democrats like Harris.
— CeCe ✞🌴🦩🇺🇸 (@Ohio_buckeye_us) September 27, 2023
The charges against McKenzie were confirmed by the organization in a statement by the press office. The MFF has been at the center of several recent controversies that have largely flown under the radar including how the fund uses donations and what happens when violent criminals are released from jail.
In the wake of the George Floydd protests, MFF received between $30 and $35 million in donations to provide bail for protestors arrested by Minneapolis police. About $200,000 of those donations were spent on bail for 40 people arrested during the protests. The fund has seen constant changes in leadership with numerous executive directors stepping down over conflicts within the board.
The fund has also been accused of allowing several individuals to bail out of jail who went on to commit additional heinous crimes. In January 2023, the fund provided $65,000 bail for convicted felon Thomas Moseley who had been arrested during the protests for possession of drugs and a weapon. Moseley had previous arrests for violence at other protests and attacking a police precinct causing damage.
In August 2022, the fund arranged bail for a man arrested on charges of indecent exposure. The man, Shawn Michael Tillman, had eight prior indecent exposure convictions when he was bailed out. Three weeks later, he brutally executed a man at a public transit stop, shooting the victim eight times including three shots to the head.
In another instance, the fund bailed out a twice-convicted rapist who was then re-arrested on charges of assault, kidnapping, and sexual assault. In defense, the then-director of the fund, Greg Luwin said that he does not look at the charges against a person. He said that the point of the fund was not to make a judgment about the type of crime but rather to fight against the incarceration of Black and Brown people.
Harris is not the only high-profile person who voiced support on social media for the work the group does to free incarcerated people. Celebrities including Steve Carell, Cynthia Nixon, and Seth Rogen called on their followers to put up donations to the organization in the wake of the protests.
The arrest of McKenzie is only the latest sign of problems with the troubled fund and could lead to increased scrutiny both in the way the fund uses donations and in the consequences the organizations policies have on the residents of Minnesota.