It has been an extraordinary year for the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund (BCBF). In 2020, the organization spent millions of dollars to free arrested Black Lives Matter demonstrators and immigrants who were detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
When New Yorkers rose up in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, an influx of donations made it possible for BCBF to distribute $2.3 million to funds around the country to post bail for demonstrators and to dedicate an additional $2.3 million towards 49 Black-led groups in New York State that are working to mobilize communities around the issues of police brutality, incarceration and other injustices.
And during the height of the pandemic, BCBF was also able to free more than 130 people from ICE detention — where conditions inside remain life-threatening — and provide them with resources and support when they returned to their families. This year, BCBF was able to expand its emergency post-release services so that it could provide people with things like cash assistance, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and MetroCards.
“We’re proud of the work we do every year to free people while simultaneously pushing for changes to dismantle the racist, oppressive systems that criminalize immigrant and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) communities,” said Peter Goldberg, BCBF’s executive director.
Since BCBF was created in 2015, the organization has helped free more than 5,000 people from jail and ICE detention centers. By partnering with ally groups in Brooklyn and throughout the United States, BCBF has also served as a local leader in the effort to end policies that lead to mass incarceration.
Despite his organization’s success in 2020, Goldberg acknowledges that there is a lot of work to be done. Quoting the late civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, Goldberg said, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
“We are always working toward that,” he continued. “In 2021, we’ll continue to pay immigration bonds to free people from inhumane, unjust ICE detention. We also will continue to partner with allies and organizers to advocate for changes in policies and practices that will decrease the number of people being criminalized and caged. With a new president and 2021 elections for mayor, district attorneys and city council, there will be a lot of opportunities to demand change and hold elected officials accountable to making those changes.”
Goldberg also pointed out that this is a collective fight. To win it, he asks for the ongoing support of Brooklynites, New Yorkers and allies living throughout the United States.
“We need people to demand that elected leaders act in the best interest of our communities — like funding excluded workers, ending pretrial detention, canceling contracts and cooperation with ICE, investing in communities and defunding the police,” said Goldberg. “It’s especially important to support and follow Black-led groups who know best what concrete actions are needed to bring lasting change.”
Cover Image Courtesy of Brooklyn Community Bail Fund
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