GoFundMe says it won’t be giving the C$10 million ($8 million USD) raised to support the truckers protesting COVID-19 mandates to the organizers anymore, saying it will instead work with the organizers to send the funds to “established charities verified by GoFundMe.”
“To ensure GoFundMe remains a trusted platform, we work with local authorities to ensure we have a detailed, factual understanding of events taking place on the ground,” the fundraising platform said in a statement on Feb. 4.
“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 (Term 8, which prohibits the promotion of violence and harassment) and has been removed from the platform.”
GoFundMe added that it has “evidence from law enforcement that the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity.”
John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) which is providing legal representation for the organizers, told The Epoch Times that the linking of protesters to violent or unlawful activity is unfounded.
“I would like to see what evidence there is,” Carpay said. “That’s political spin.”
Carpay said the organizers have maintained that the protests are peaceful.
“It’s a constitutional freedom to protest peacefully,” Carpay said.
He also said that it’s his understanding from people on the ground that people can move freely in Ottawa, and for example in a recent case an emergency vehicle was able to “rapidly race through the streets because the trucks were neatly parked off to the side.”
“They’re not obstructing the daily lives of people in Ottawa, and they’re committed to peace and non-violence,” he said.
The Epoch Times reached out to GoFundMe for comment but didn’t immediately hear back.
GoFundMe had earlier put a freeze in withdrawal of the funds as it undertook a review “to ensure it complies with our terms of service and applicable laws and regulations.”
Keith Wilson, a lawyer from JCCF representing the organizers, had said earlier at a Feb. 3 press conference that GoFundMe has been “bombarded with an orchestrated social media and other campaigns to try and shut [the fundraiser] down.”
Ottawa police have made a few arrests while the protesters remain in Ottawa. On Feb. 1, the Ottawa Police Service announced that it had charged one man with mischief under $5,000 and another man with carrying a weapon to a meeting. Police charged another man from Quebec while in Ottawa on Feb. 2 in relation to “threats and comments made on social media.” Police say there have been no injuries or riots during the protests.
“I have it on very reliable information that people from the movement were not associated, and that offences related to property damage, and just an assault this morning, committed by agitators were witnessed and reported by a trucker and one of our volunteer security personnel, which was reported to the police and handled by the Ottawa Police Service,” said Daniel Bulford, a former RCMP officer who worked as a sniper to protect the prime minister and is now helping the protest organizers, at the Feb. 3 press conference.
Preliminary data shows there has been a decline in police-reported street crime since the protest began in downtown Ottawa, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.
In the week prior to the protest, there were 31 police calls for crimes such as robbery, assault, drug trafficking, public drunkenness, and other crimes in the Ottawa district the protest is set up, but there were only three reports of street crime since the protests began, Blacklock’s Reporter said.
In a Feb. 4 post on Twitter, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson thanked GoFundMe 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.
GoFundMe had earlier allowed withdrawal of C$1 million by the organizers to be used for expenses such as fuel and food for the protesters. The fundraising platform said in its Feb. 4 statement that donors may submit a request for a full refund of their donation until Feb. 19.
The trucker convoy demonstration initially started as a protest against the federal government’s requirement for truck drivers crossing the U.S.-Canada border to have COVID-19 vaccination, but became a large movement as many across Canada opposing various COVID-19 mandates and restrictions joined the protest.
The convoy converged in Ottawa on Jan. 29, and many protesters have remained in the city, parking their trucks and vehicles by Parliament Hill. Sounds of horn honking by protesters can be heard throughout the day.
The protesters say they will remain in the nation’s capital until the government removes COVID-19 mandates.
The organizers have now set up an alternate donation site on GiveSendGo, which they say will ensure the money gets to the protesters. The donation site had raised over $175,000 in just a few hours after its creation.