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Fraud lawsuit against Black Lives Matter foundation dismissed in California

a California A judge dismissed a civil lawsuit filed last summer by grassroots racial justice activists across the country against the foundation that controls the group. black lives matter The charitable donations for this movement are worth tens of millions of dollars.

The organizers’ collective, Black Lives Matter Grassroots Inc., has raised donations from the activities of the city-based BLM chapter of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Inc. to defraud the public and keep activists out of decision-making. claimed.

In dismissing the lawsuit, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Borwick said local BLM activists had failed to prove they were entitled to the funds raised and that foundation leaders had siphoned millions of dollars for nefarious purposes. It sided with foundation attorneys who asserted unproven allegations, including that the

The fraud allegations against the foundation were based, in part, on allegations of misrepresentation of a $6 million Los Angeles-area compound purchased with donations. The property, which includes a six-bedroom and bathroom home, a pool, soundstage and office space, is being used as a campus for the Black Artists Fellowship, according to the foundation. BLM chapter organizers say the donated funds were never intended for such use.

If the fraud allegations “are premised on misrepresentation rather than concealment, then the complaint does not fully allege when, where, to whom, how and by what means the representations were submitted. ‘” Bowick said in a court order issued on Tuesday.

BLM Grassroots co-founder Melina Abdullah said on Thursday that the group was “stunned and disappointed” by the court’s dismissal order. A lawyer for the local organizer said an appeal would be made “immediately.”

“Black Lives Matter will continue as usual, regardless of the court’s ruling,” Abdullah said in a statement.

In response to this ruling, the BLM Foundation also said it would proceed with its activities.

“Despite countless blatant fabrications, misrepresentations and innuendos of wrongdoing, we have remained loyal to our cause, philanthropy and organizational focus,” the foundation said in a statement Wednesday night. It is written that

It has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit under California’s Strategic Litigation Code Against Public Participation.slap. The law is intended to prevent plaintiffs from using courts as a means of intimidating people and organizations exercising their right to free speech.

BLM Grassroots attorney Justin Saunders said the legal basis for the ruling was “a terrible example of a letter and not the spirit of the law being complied with.”

A local organizer’s complaint, filed in the State High Court last September, named Foundation Board Executive Director Shalomir Bowers and his firm Bowers Consulting. Bowers’ firm was brought in to help build the organization’s infrastructure before BLM co-founder Patrice Cullors stepped down as head of the organization in May 2021.

The foundation has financially supported BLM chapters in the United States and Canada, but in the wake of the unprecedented wave of financial support and public attention following the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, it is urgent needed help. In 2021, we spent $37 million in grants, real estate, consultants and other expenses, and the foundation invested $32 million in equity.

The foundation ended fiscal year 2021-2022 with approximately $30 million in assets.

2020-2021 IRS Bowers’ firm received $2.1 million in providing operational support, including staffing, funding and other essential services, according to filings, which was less than the organization spent on consultants during the fiscal year. It was a large portion. But local organizers were unable to prove in court that Bowers or his company siphoned millions of dollars in fees from the donations, as alleged in the lawsuit.

These specific allegations against Bowers were “confusing and incomprehensible,” Bowick wrote in the court’s dismissal order.

A separate statement released by Bowers’ company said the BLM board executive was deciding how to seek accountability for how the lawsuit affected him and his business. Stated.

In an open letter to BLM Grassroots released after the court’s ruling, the foundation opened the door to repairing relationships with local BLM organizers.

“The problems we face as a community are too great to divide,” the letter said. “It’s the only way to address the critical issues of ending police brutality, state-sanctioned violence, black economic prosperity, and achieving a world where black people in the diaspora thrive, experience joy, and are not defined by struggle. , we heal the past and re-imagine the future.”


Aaron Morrison is a member of the AP’s Race and Ethnicity team based in New York. Follow him on Twitter: Fraud lawsuit against Black Lives Matter foundation dismissed in California

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