GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Lansing-based nonprofit posted at least $120,000 cash to bail out some of the suspects in the Grand Rapids riot from the Kent County jail.
The Michigan Solidarity Bail Fund boasts on social media that it “supported seven protesters with bail payments, primarily in Grand Rapids,” in the first two weeks of June.
MSBF describes itself as a “revolving fund” created in 2018 following the arrest of protesters who clashed with white supremacists attending a speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
According to its website, in the aftermath of the arrests at MSU, “comrades scrambled to raise the necessary funds and to navigate the process of getting the antificascist arrestees out of jail.”
Organizers say donations soon poured in from people around the country in support of those detained at MSU.
The effort to bond out those arrested at the Spencer protest in March 2018 led to the creation of a standing bail fund.
“We stand with those who put their bodies on the line against the terror of a white supremacist police state, and we intend to support as many people as we can who are targeted by the police in the coming days,” MSBF said on its website.
Sixteen people, 15 adults and a minor, face charges in connection to the late May riot in downtown Grand Rapids. The gathering started as a large but peaceful protest and then, as the sun set, devolved into an hourslong riot that led to some $2 million in private and public damage and costs to the city.
Court records confirmed the identities of four suspects bailed out by MSBF, as well as the amounts spent:
Suspect: Byron Castaneda
Charges: Riot, B&E with intent, lying to a peace officer
Bail posted: $20,000
Suspect: Olivia Hull
Charges: Riot, breaking and entering, malicious destruction of property less than $200
Bail posted: $55,000
Suspect: Brian Jennings
Charges: Riot, B&E, MDOP between $1,000 and $20,000
Bail posted: $15,000
Suspect: Ronald Raymond
Charges: Riot, attempted arson in the third degree, MDOP, aggravated assault
Bail posted: $30,750
Target 8 tried to contact the suspects themselves, but was unsuccessful. Their lawyers declined interviews as well.
Online, MSBF says it is a “small collective with members from around the state who are engaged in anti-prison, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist organizing and who are committed to utilizing this fund to bail out those most in need and most at risk.”
“We encourage anyone who knows someone currently being held in pretrial detention to reach out to us. We also encourage people who fear that there may be arrests at an upcoming demonstration or protest to reach out to the Michigan Solidarity Bail Fund prior to the time of action if they wish to request funds for bail,” its website reads.
Target 8’s effort to track the source of the bail money began with a single name in an online court record: John Robert Martin. He was listed in 61st District Court Records as the person who bailed out Olivia Hull.
Martin, 34, lived in Grand Rapids previously but now has an address in Chicago.
He did not respond to efforts to reach him, but it wasn’t tough to figure out what he’s been up to.
A background check showed Martin has been arrested at least three times — twice while protesting alt-right speakers, including Spencer at MSU in 2018, and once for blocking traffic in Grand Rapids during a protest against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. An online search of Martin’s name brings up his mugshot under #antifamugshots.
John Robert Martin, a 32-year-old Grand Rapids resident, was arrested & charged at an antifa riot at Michigan State in March 2018. 13 others were charged with felonies for carrying concealed weapons and fighting with police. More details: https://t.co/DKKkqt8Fj2 #AntifaMugshots pic.twitter.com/90DSQBhlyy— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) January 26, 2020
It should be noted that Target 8 could not independently confirm that Martin identifies as antifa and the Portland, Oregon-based journalist and blogger who posted Martin’s mugshot runs a subscription site dedicated to exposing antifa.
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said authorities have found no evidence that ‘antifa,’ nor any other ideological movement, instigated the riot in Grand Rapids.
Antifa, which is short for anti-fascist, is a loosely connected grassroots network known for its sometimes violent opposition to white supremacists. The ideology, which has no centralized structure, gained national attention in 2017 when followers engaged in a violent confrontation with white supremacists at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
On the bail form Martin filled out to post bond for Raymond, he listed a Lansing-based nonprofit called Kaleidoscope Community Organization. State records show Kaleidoscope also does business as the Michigan Solidarity Bail Fund.
Target 8 visited the homes of two Kaleidoscope leaders in Lansing, but neither would talk about the organization’s work to bail out accused rioters. Target 8 investigators also reached out to MSBF itself but did not receive a response.
While the bail fund is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, its 990 tax form is not easily accessible because the organization is relatively new. Therefore, Target 8 has so far been unable to obtain further details regarding who’s donating to the fund.