Online fundraising for the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teen in Missouri earlier this month has topped $200,000, surpassing money raised for the victim’s family.
Separate accounts have been set up on the website Go Fund Me, where the public can donate to personal causes and charities. Thousands of supporters of Officer Darren Wilson and 18-year-old Michael Brown have contributed, from a few dollars to thousands, to the general funds for legal fees and family expenses.
Wilson's supporters have given twice as much as Brown's in 24 hours. Donations totaling more than $100,000 since Thursday brought the "Support Officer Darren Wilson" fund to $220,000 by late Friday morning. The fund was started four days ago.
Meanwhile, the official Michael Brown Memorial Fund that began last week, had $157,000 at the same time Friday, an increase of about $45,000 over the same period.
Canada-based fundraising expert Vanessa Chase, who reviewed data from both funds on Thursday, says that in polarized cases like the Ferguson shooting, donors see their contributions as advocacy, not charity.
"People are really making a personal political statement when they make a gift like this. I highly doubt that someone who was feeling politically neutral would get involved in an issue like this or make a donation to either side," she said. "I think you have to really feel the alignment of values with what's going on there."
Amid allegations of systemic racial discrimination and calls from protestors to arrest Wilson, a white policeman in the central U.S. town of Ferguson, Missouri, he has not been charged in Brown's August 9 death.
Law enforcement groups around the country have donated and so have relatives of police officers, who cite that relationship as their reason for giving.
One of the top donors on Wilson's crowdfunding website, identified as Louis Dorfman, gave $1,000 along with a note that read, "Know that lots of Americans realize the tough job you have every day and that you deserve to have your side of the story publicized at least equal to those prejudging you and your need to defend yourself--the right of every citizen."
Brown's supporters also believe the rights of life and due process are on the line.
Joy Jackson, the top named donor for the Brown fund, said the $2,000 contribution was to "peacefully fight injustice on our people."
Then there are people like Lauren Allen who are choosing a different way to get involved.
The doctoral student is one of several activists asking the public to help get a busload of students and young professionals from Washington, D.C. to Missouri for a rally in Brown's honor on Saturday. She asked her social media followers to give to the #DCtoFerguson Bus campaign.
"This isn't about a photo op or an experience or a trip," Allen said. "This is to help them know that we stand against injustice everywhere, because this is not just Michael Brown, it's not just in Ferguson. It's happening all over America."
For Allen, giving money doesn't go far enough. She wants to be on the ground, to be there for the protestors who have been on the streets of Ferguson for nearly two weeks, and for the people who can give money but can't travel to Missouri to stand beside the demonstrators.
"I think history has shown that people being on the ground is crucial," she said. "You have to see that people are outraged. You have to feel that tension in the air. And that can't be felt with just giving money."
If Allen doesn't reach the $8,000 mark in time, she said the money will go to the general fund for Brown's family, which is being administered by their legal team.