Redwood City crowdfunding company GoFundMe on Friday shut down a campaign that raised more than $10 million for Canada’s “Trucker Convoy” protest against vaccine mandates that has gridlocked the nation’s capital and filled it with ceaselessly honking trucks and unruly and impolite protesters, in scenes reminiscent of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last year.
The protest, led by a would-be conservative politician named Tamara Lich who plays guitar in a bar band in Medicine Hat, Alberta, was sparked by a Canadian government rule requiring unvaccinated truckers crossing into Canada from the U.S. to get COVID tests and quarantine for two weeks.
Police in the capital city of Ottawa warned this week that guns appeared to have been brought into the protest area. Officials said in a news release they had evidence of “violence, hate crimes and unlawful behaviour,” and that many crimes had not been officially reported including “assaults, hate crimes, sexual assault, spitting and other threatening and criminal behaviour.”
The protest included streams of vehicles coming from across Canada, converging in Ottawa starting Jan. 29. It evolved to include a range of grievances related to coronavirus restrictions, with left-leaning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau targeted with profane vitriol. Former U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday praised the protest in a news release, saying participants were “peacefully protesting the harsh policies of far left lunatic Justin Trudeau who has destroyed Canada with insane Covid mandates.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk earlier tweeted support for the protest.
The Guardian newspaper reported Friday that U.S. organizers were operating a “Convoy to DC 2022” Facebook group that “quickly gained more than 100,000 members and announced a convoy next month.” Facebook’s parent company Meta shut down the group but the organizers have moved to the Telegram messaging service, according to the newspaper.
The number of trucks in the protest, also called the “Freedom Convoy,” has been hotly debated. Lich had claimed in a Facebook post that 50,000 heavy trucks were headed to Ottawa, but other reports suggest the number is far lower, with many cars and pickup trucks involved, and the total may be slightly over 1,000. Canada’s national broadcaster, the CBC, reported Jan. 29 that thousands of protesters had converged on the federal government center of Ottawa.
On Friday, GoFundMe said in a blog post that it had reviewed the situation in Ottawa, talked several times with local police and city officials, and found the Trucker Convoy fundraising campaign to violate its terms of service.
The Redwood City firm said it had released $1 million of the funds earlier this week after confirming that organizers had provided a “clear distribution plan” for the money to be used “only for participants who traveled to Ottawa to participate in a peaceful protest.” However, GoFundMe said, “Given how this situation has evolved, no further funds will be directly distributed to the Freedom Convoy organizers.” Donors may submit requests for refunds, and any remaining funds will be given to charity, GoFundMe said.
Canadians across the country have expressed outrage over reports that protesters had defiled the National War Memorial, which honors Canadian war dead and was the site of a 2014 murder of a Canadian soldier on sentry duty. Related protests have spread to other Canadian cities.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance, the primary group representing Canadian truckers, has disavowed the protest, saying about 85% of Canada’s 120,000 truckers are vaccinated and “a great number of these protestors have no connection to the trucking industry and have a separate agenda beyond a disagreement over cross-border vaccine requirements.”
A group of Ottawa residents on Friday filed a $10 million (Canadian) lawsuit against Lich and three other Trucker Convoy organizers, claiming that protesters’ endless horn-honking had caused “significant mental distress, suffering and torment” to Ottawa residents living near the protest area, the CTV network reported.
Messages sent via email and Facebook seeking comment from protest organizers about GoFundMe’s decision did not receive an immediate response.