ST. LOUIS — An online fundraising drive for the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot an unarmed African-American teenager to death on Aug. 9 surpassed $300,000 by Saturday afternoon, as dozens of people gathered at a St. Louis pub to rally on the lawman’s behalf.
One fundraising Web page raised so much money in so few days that it was shut down and a second page was opened, with its donations being directed to a fund managed by the local Fraternal Order of Police lodge. In all, the two pages, both on the crowdfunding website gofundme, have raised more than $300,000 for the officer, Darren Wilson.
“The individual who started the fund didn’t realize it would get so big,” said a woman who organized Saturday’s rally. When pressed for her name, she said only, “I am Darren Wilson,” a play on the popular mantra that followed the shooting death in Florida of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.
The woman said donations were pouring in from around the nation from people of different races, most of whom were afraid to show their faces or publicly give their names. The site had to remove nasty comments being posted by people angry at Wilson and by people criticizing the 18-year-old he shot, Michael Brown.
A related Facebook page for Wilson had nearly 60,000 “likes.” The rally organizer said the page was being monitored for vitriol.
“We are working around the clock to clear the hate,” she said.
In a statement she read aloud Saturday, she said: “Our mission is to formally declare that we share the united belief that Officer Wilson’s actions on Aug. 9 were warranted and justified, and he has our unwavering support. We believe that the evidence has and will continue to validate our position.”
She also criticized the news media for offering what she called one-sided coverage that “intensified the destruction” of Ferguson and neighboring communities, alluding to the looting that came after the shooting.
Participants in the rally wore T-shirts with a logo in the form of a police shield that said, “Officer Darren Wilson I Stand With You.” They were marked “8.9.14” for the date of the shooting. One rally attendee paid $200 for the shirt, the organizer said.
Organizers of the rally said the proceeds would help relocate Wilson’s family and support him because he was unlikely to be able to work on the streets of Ferguson again. It would also help him if he were to be indicted or sued, she said.
Another fundraising drive on the same crowdfunding site, for Michael Brown’s family, reached $200,000 Saturday. And daily protests continued in support of the slain black teenager.
In Ferguson, 300 to 400 people conducted a peaceful march Saturday afternoon down West Florissant Avenue, which in previous nights was the scene of violent outbreaks. The march was organized by the St. Louis County chapter of the NAACP and was led by three of the law enforcement officers who have been tasked with trying to maintain peace and safety in Ferguson: Capt. Ronald S. Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, and Chiefs Sam Dotson of the St. Louis Police Department and Jon Belmar of the St. Louis County Police Department.
In Washington, hundreds of protesters marched through busy commercial streets on a damp Saturday evening to protest the killing of Brown. Organizers — including the activist groups National Black United Front and the Answer Coalition — targeted the Chinatown neighborhood, said Eugene Young, a spokesman for the Answer Coalition, because “if there’s not going to be justice for Michael Brown, then there won’t be any economic peace.”
The demonstrators also demanded the arrest of Wilson, the demilitarization of police departments and the addition of cameras to police officers’ uniforms.
Also Saturday, the White House announced that the Obama administration would send representatives to Brown’s funeral here Monday.
The representatives are Broderick Johnson, assistant to the president, White House Cabinet secretary and chairman of the My Brother’s Keeper task force; Marlon Marshall, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; and Heather Foster, adviser for the White House Office of Public Engagement.
Marshall is a native of St. Louis and attended high school with Brown’s mother, the White House said.
The supporters of Wilson who gathered at Barney’s Sports Pub in St. Louis on Saturday said that they did so because the news media was biased against the officer.
“I am here to make sure justice is served,” said Greg Messmer, a police officer from a nearby community. “Unfortunately because of the bias of the media, they’ve come to the conclusion that he is guilty before the evidence is presented.”
Julie Redden, who said she was a “police mom,” donated $60 and handed out snacks.
“I don’t want our city to give up on law enforcement,” Redden said. “These men are good men. I think some people are giving up on trusting them.”
A few counterprotesters showed up near the rally, but the two groups largely ignored each other, though one heckler got into a brief shouting match with the officer’s supporters.