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Millions mistakenly raised for unaffiliated Black Lives Matter Foundation that wants to work with police

Millions mistakenly raised for unaffiliated Black Lives Matter Foundation that wants to work with police
Amid multiple high-profile police shootings in recent years, millions of dollars were raised for “The Black Lives Matter Foundation,” but the charity is unaffiliated with and diametrically opposed to the movement of the same name.

The foundation is a Santa Clarita, California–based charitable organization, which lists a UPS store as its address. It was founded by Robert Ray Barnes, a 67-year-old LA music producer, in May 2015. 

It is among the first verified organizations that appears when users search for “Black Lives Matter” on GoFundMe, so many people did not perform due diligence when donating. They included employees from Apple, Google, and Microsoft who raised millions of dollars for the foundation but stopped just short of making actual donations after the bizarre situation came to light. 

Rough estimates indicate that somewhere in the region of $4.35 million was raised for the Black Lives Matter Foundation in the first weeks of June, but the majority of it was frozen before it could be released. Apparently, even GoFundMe was unaware of the lack of affiliation, which only came to light following media enquiries.

The Black Lives Matter movement evolved from the 2013 hashtag spawned in the wake of the Treyvon Martin case. In recent weeks, following the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department, the BLM movement has called for the police to be defunded and the money to be redirected to help black communities. 

The BLM Foundation, however, claims to be working towards “bringing the community and police closer together.”

“I don’t have anything to do with the Black Lives Matter Global Network. I never met them; never spoke to them. I don’t know them; I have no relationship with them,” Barnes said. “Our whole thing is having unity with the police department.”

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Meanwhile, the BLM movement, officially called “Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc.,” which was registered in the state of Delaware in 2017, two years after Barnes registered in California, is claiming that he has co-opted the brand. 

“The Santa Clarita group is improperly using our name,” a BLM spokesperson said. “We intend to call them out and follow up.”

Further complicating matters is the fact that the official movement is not a nonprofit, but instead raises funds through a charity called Thousand Currents. 

Well-intentioned people repeatedly conflate the foundation with the movement and Barnes has reaped the rewards, gathering donations made via GoFundMe, PayPal or employee donation-matching platforms. 

“They took my name and put this ‘Inc.’ behind it,” Barnes said. “They took my name. I own that name. I haven’t stolen anything from them. They have stolen from me. They have lied and been able to profit using my name.”

Barnes has declined to reveal how much money he has raised, though tax filings from 2017 show that the foundation had raised at least $300,000 in donations. 

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Barnes reportedly hasn’t done anything with the funds but is working on “prototypes” for community and police bonding, including “Community Organized Programs” or “COP events,” referring to annual buffet dinners and other social events aimed at bringing the community closer together with its police force.

“We don’t want to be enemies of the police. We will let the movement do that,” Barnes added. “We want to get to the point where we have programs and that’s where the change will happen. That’s where we come in.” 

In yet another odd twist in the tale, Santa Clarita doesn’t have its own police department, relying instead on LA County police protection, and authorities there say they have never heard of Barnes or his foundation.

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