Online donations reach nearly $700,000 after Ferguson shooting

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 | 4:45 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — Donors have given nearly $700,000 to online fundraising sites set up to collect money for the family of a black 18-year-old and the white police officer who fatally shot him in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Michael Brown Memorial Fund had raised more than $280,000 from more than 9,300 people in 13 days. Two sites supporting police officer Darren Wilson have drawn nearly $410,000 from nearly 10,000 contributors. The donations have come through the site

A look at some key points behind the fundraising efforts:

BROWN FAMILY: The money collected for the Brown family is meant to defray funeral, burial, travel and living expenses "as they seek justice on Michael's behalf." None of the donations will go toward the family's legal fees, the Web page says.

WILSON'S SUPPORTERS: Public rallies in support of Wilson have been far smaller than the street demonstrations to protest Brown's death. But the contributions on the officer's behalf have eclipsed the online donations to the Browns. An early page raised $234,900 within eight days and was replaced by another page that has collected more than $175,000. The combined total is from nearly 9,900 donors. According to the page, that money is to be spent on "potential legal fees, relocation and living expenses" of Wilson and his immediate family.

FLOOD OF DONATIONS: Since Brown's death, people from New York to California have given money to one side or the other. The online fundraising is in addition to other events benefiting either side, including benefit concerts and T-shirt sales.

WHO'S GIVING? allows donors to identify themselves. Many contributors to the Browns willingly gave their name. Wilson's backers have largely preferred to stay secret. Much like the rallies on Wilson's behalf that have attracted sign-carriers who refused to identify themselves, contributors to Wilson's funds are virtually all anonymous. Many of his supporters have said revealing their names could put them at risk of retaliation. In the early days of the unrest after Brown's death, black protesters used the refrain "I am Michael Brown." Not long after that, the phrase was co-opted by Wilson supporters, who began identifying themselves as "I am Darren Wilson."

THE BACKDROP: With separate criminal and civil-rights investigations underway, the facts of the confrontation that led to the shooting remain murky. Police have said 28-year-old Wilson, a six-year police veteran, was pushed into his patrol vehicle and physically assaulted during a struggle with Brown over the officer's gun. Some witnesses have reported seeing Brown's arms up in the air — an apparent sign of surrender — before the shooting. Wilson, who has not been charged, has been in hiding since the shooting.

A local grand jury is reviewing the shooting, and the Justice Department is conducting its own investigation. Wilson has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

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