OTTAWA—An organizer with the Freedom Convoy protest says the seizure of C$10 million (US$8 million) in donations for the truckers by GoFundMe was due to government interference.
“It was clearly direct interference from the government to cancel this campaign,” Benjamin Dichter said at a press conference in Ottawa on Feb. 6.
On Feb. 4, GoFundMe said it was removing the donations and giving the money to charities it had verified. Initially, the fundraising platform said those who had donated could request a refund, but on Feb. 5 it said it will automatically reimburse the funds to the donors.
On Feb. 3, a House of Commons committee voted unanimously to call on GoFundMe to testify before MPs to learn about the source of the funds donated to the protest movement, and what safeguards were in place to ensure the money wouldn’t be used to “promote extremism.”
After GoFundMe pulled the funds, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson thanked the company for “listening to the plea made by the City and the Ottawa Police to no longer provide funds to the convoy organizers.”
“I’m hopeful that limiting their access to … funding and resources will restrict their ability to remain in Ottawa,” Watson said in a Twitter post on Feb. 4.
Dichter said the mayor’s statement on Twitter shows the cancellation was due to government interference.
The Epoch Times reached out to Watson for comment but didn’t hear back.
“A lot of people have been very concerned over the censorship, but I think we have it under control,” Dicther said.
Protest organizers have since set up a fundraising account with GiveSendGo, which had raised US$3.5 million by the evening of Feb. 6, just two days after its creation.
GoFundMe had earlier allowed the withdrawal of C$1 million for costs such as fuel and food for the truckers.
The protest movement started as a demonstration by truck drivers opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates for cross-border travel, but has since become a much larger protest with people from across Canada joining in to oppose various COVID-19 mandates and restrictions. Protest convoys drove from different parts of Canada to Ottawa on Jan. 29, and many have stayed in the city, saying they will remain until the government lifts its vaccination mandate.
Several U.S. Republicans raised concerns about GoFundMe’s removal of the funds for the trucker protest.
On Feb. 5, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted that it was “a fraud” for the platform to “commandeer” the money and give it to causes of their own choosing, referring to the company’s initial statement that it would donate the funds to charity. DeSantis said he would work with the state’s attorney general Ashley Moody “to investigate these deceptive practices.”
Florida’s Lieutenant Governor Jeanette M. Nuñez also voiced support for the Freedom Convoy and denounced the cancelling of the fundraising account.
“The same @gofundme that supported Antifa, BLM, and CHAZ/CHOP just shut down fundraisers for the Canadian truckers protesting against vaccine mandate,” Nuñez said on Twitter. “Florida stands with the Freedom Convoy.”
GoFundMe hasn’t responded to requests for comment.
Omid Ghoreishi contributed to this report.