A Black Lives Matter (BLM) activist has pleaded not guilty to fraud amid allegations she pocketed tens of thousands of pounds in donations ring-fenced for a youth charity based in Bristol, England.
Xahra Saleem, 22, entered her plea at Bristol Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, denying two counts of fraud by abuse of position.
The BLM organizer was central to the setting up of online fundraising campaigns at the peak of the movement in the summer of 2020 following the murder of convicted robber George Floyd during an arrest by police officers in the U.S. city of Minneapolis.
As BLM protests escalated and came to Europe, the southwest English city of Bristol, one of the country’s most liberal cities, saw widespread rioting which climaxed with the toppling of a statue commemorating Edward Colston, a 17th century English merchant, slave trader, and philanthropist.
It is alleged that Saleem helped to create a crowdfunding page to raise money for face masks and other safety equipment to ensure a planned march throughout the city — which descended into chaos and resulted in the injuring of several police officers — could go ahead legally under Covid-19 restrictions which were in place at the time.
It is understood that an agreement was in place to transfer any excess funds from the march to Changing Your Mindset Ltd, a youth charity aiming to provide for minors in the deprived inner Bristol suburb of St. Paul’s.
However, the charity has not reportedly been in receipt of any funding.
Both counts of fraud claim Saleem “dishonestly abused” her position as an organizer for the charity by intending “to make a gain, namely used the funds raised, for [her]self.”
Due to the severity of the allegations, presiding District Judge Lynne Matthews confirmed the matter must now be heard by the Crown Court, in front of which Saleem will next appear on Jan. 30, 2023.