Why People Across the Country Are Raising Money to Bail Strangers Out of Jail

This article first appeared on Waginig Nonviolence.

The premise of Mariame Kaba’s idea, which she tweeted on New Year’s Eve with the hashtag #FreeThePeople, was simple — donate the price of one drink to a local bail fund, organizations that raise money and post bail for people who would otherwise languish in jail until their day in court.

Organizers took up the call to #FreethePeople. Chicago organizer Kelly Hayes reached out to others to create memes to circulate and keep momentum going. She and Kaba also compiled fact sheets about cash bail and its consequences. “We wanted to use this as an opportunity for education, not just to raise money,” Kaba explained.

Their efforts took off and, in one day, raised over $233,000 for at least 14 local bail funds across the country. Hundreds of people participated, tweeting and retweeting the calls, creating graphics for the event or tweeting the amount they donated as a way to encourage others to do the same. Some used the hashtag to educate about how cash bail works — and its devastating consequences. Those thousands of dollars are now enabling them to post bail for hundreds of people.