A truck protesting with a Canadian flag is seen across from Parliament in Ottawa, Canada, February 2022. (Lars Hagberg / Reuters)
Popular crowdfunding platform GoFundMe blocked the fundraising efforts of the Canadian trucker convoy Friday, preventing its receipt of $10 million in donations, claiming the movement violated its terms of service.
While the anti-vaccine mandate protest started as a caravan to Ottawa, organizers have indicated that they intend for it to escalate and continue, relying on private funds to subsidize fuel, food, and lodging for truckers as they pressure Canadian leaders to end the Covid-19 restrictions.
Drivers from routes starting in British Columbia, Atlantic Canada, and other origin points converged on Ottawa last weekend to demonstrate against the federal government and pandemic restrictions that they say infringe on their individual liberty. Political flags were flying at a rally on Parliament Hill Saturday, which disrupted traffic downtown. A number of tractors, representing Canadian farmers, also reportedly showed up for the procession.
After the weekend, GoFundMe reached the conclusion that the anti-mandate campaign engaged in hateful behavior that disqualified it as a customer.
“Following a review of relevant facts and multiple discussions with local law enforcement and city officials, this fundraiser is now in violation of our terms of service,” GoFundMe’s statement said. The protesters were allegedly involved in “the promotion of violence and harassment,” prohibited by the company’s operating rules.
“Organizers provided a clear distribution plan for the initial $1M that was released earlier this week and confirmed funds would be used only for participants who travelled to Ottawa to participate in a peaceful protest,” it continued. “Given how this situation has evolved, no further funds will be directly distributed to the Freedom Convoy organizers.”
Donors can request refunds and the remainder will be distributed to charities of the company’s choosing.
The convoy chiefly relied on GoFundMe’s platform to raise money, although some protesters have used alternative vehicles such as social media and email. About $250,000 has been collected through Christian fundraising service GiveSendGo. Critics say that it’s hypocritical for GoFundMe to cut off the convoy financially when it allowed donations to Black Lives Matter in the summer of 2020 as the group engaged in violent riots and social justice protests.
The Ottawa police claimed on Twitter Friday that the ongoing demonstrations have been connected to a surge in “unlawful acts including harassment, mischief, hate crimes, and noise violations.” It announced a major deployment of police officers to minimize the “impacts” of the protestors and the installment of heavy and concrete barricades. Police also said they were committed to “increased investigation enforcement and charges for all criminal acts” and “enhanced intelligence operations.”
“National, provincial and local intelligence agencies have increased efforts to identify and target protestors who are funding/supporting/enabling unlawful and harmful activity by protestors,” they tweeted. “Investigative evidence-gathering teams are collecting financial, digital, vehicle registration, driver identification, insurance status, and other related evidence that will be used in criminal prosecutions.”
Ottawa mayor Jim Watson encouraged other companies to refrain from doing business with the convoy.
“I am imploring similar crowdfunding platforms to take the same position and not enable the group in its fundraising efforts,” he said.
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