KEY POINTS

  • Embrace put up BLM signs in early summer, losing $25,000 in annual funding and almost all help from law enforcement in retaliation
  • After the group's story broke nationwide, an outpouring of support has helped keep it afloat with $97,000 raised so far
  • Still, operating without help from police partnerships is difficult and forced Embrace to cut programs its leader "knows have saved lives"

Embrace, a series of shelters for domestic violence victims in Wisconsin, made waves earlier this summer after being partially defunded for putting up Black Lives Matter signs.

The group doubled down on its position against racism despite the financial pressure, buoyed by an outpouring of funding from new supporters inspired by Embrace's stand. A GoFundMe page set up to support the shelters has raised $97,000 toward its $112,500 goal. 

The UN Human Rights Committee said that "worldwide protests in support of Black Lives Matter," such as this one in Graham, North Carolina on July 11, 2020, have underscored the importance of the right to peaceful assembly Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who waved guns at protesters passing by their mansion in June 2020, have been pardoned. Photo: AFP / Logan Cyrus

Embrace had displayed the small signs across several of its offices in an effort to start a difficult conversation about race, executive director Katie Bement told CNN. The shelter is against all forms of violence, and Bement said Embrace couldn’t faithfully continue its mission without speaking out against police violence.

"As an anti-violence organization, Embrace cannot end one form of violence without addressing the other, and we cannot properly serve all survivors if we do not acknowledge and address the oppression and violence the most marginalized survivors are experiencing," Embrace’s anti-racism statement reads.

In response, its county board slashed funding by $25,000, and 14 of the 17 law enforcement groups Embrace worked with cut off their association. Bement told CNN: “We never expected our funding to be held hostage or to have joint services benefiting survivors dismantled.”

BLM Black Lives Matter protesters gather in Westlake Park during Black Friday in Seattle, Nov. 27, 2015. Photo: Reuters/David Ryder

The police organizations have instead partnered with other shelters not associated with BLM. Still, Bement worries that the change has put local domestic violence victims in danger.

One of the programs canceled assessed whether callers were at high risk of homicide and allocated them the resources they needed to get out. “I know that program has saved lives," Bement told CNN.

Still, Embrace hasn’t backed down from its stance. Posts on its Facebook page express gratitude for an “outpouring of support,” saying it has received many messages both of public support and encouragement from people who don’t feel safe speaking publicly. Their GoFundMe has raised almost four years worth of the cut funding, and continues to march toward its expanded goal.