little green footballs

How Online Fundraising Confusion, Lawyers & Chuck C. Johnson Kept $60k From Tamir Rice's Family

Tue, May 5, 2015 at 12:26:13 pm

More: Online Activists Raised $60K for Tamir Rice's Family -- So Where Did All That Money Go?

Shaun King was furious.

The author and life coach turned activist has been one of the most prominent online voices in recent months, as protests of police impunity that began in Ferguson, Mo., spawned demonstrations in cities across the country. For those following the ever-growing roster of names of black men and boys killed by police, he has been one of the essential follows.

But his latest tweet storm, published Monday afternoon, was not about a new police shooting. In fact, it was about an old one.

For King and many of the other activists who have been some of the driving forces online behind the Black Lives Matter protests, the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last November as he played in a park near his home was one of the most difficult of the many anecdotes.

For many of the most vocal activists, that Tamir was a child and that his shooting was captured on grainy camera footage makes this case the most difficult to stomach. When extended video of the shooting -- which showed Cleveland police tackling Tamir's sister to the ground as she ran to his dying body -- was released late last year, one of the top protest organizers in Ferguson texted to tell me it had made him physically sick, imagining what he would do if his younger sister was wounded and he was tackled while trying to help her.

So when a new court filing in the Rice family's civil suit against the city of Cleveland revealed that Tamir has yet to be buried and that his mother was, at least temporarily, living in a homeless shelter, King was incensed.

"Absurd!" he insisted to me in a direct message on Monday afternoon, especially, he noted, because just months earlier an army of online samaritans had raised almost $60,000 for the Rice family.

So where had all of that money gone?

Timothy Kucharski had been one of two attorneys representing the Rice family for several weeks when he got a call from a friend in early December, asking about an online fundraiser he was seeing in the Rice name.

Created on the Web site, thousands of dollars were pouring into a fund for the Rice family. But Kucharski had never heard of King -- one of the fund's primary organizers -- and Rice's mother told him that she was unaware of the fundraiser.

As the fund surpassed $27,000, Kucharski contacted law enforcement as well as directly, asking that the assets being donated to the fund be seized and held for the Rice family. He contacted King, who has previously used his social media following to raise money for victims of police shootings and natural disasters and who insisted that his plan was always to give the money to the family. As they went back and forth, a number of Twitter users -- led in part by right-wing blogger Charles C. Johnson -- began insisting that the fundraiser was a scam and demanding it be halted.

More at Washington Post.