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GoFundMe slams brakes on Freedom Convoy fundraiser

Platform vows to refund contributions after reports of violence among vax protesters

Protesting trucker in Ottawa Jan. 29. (Photo: Shuttestock)

After days of monitoring protests in Ottawa, Ontario over vaccine mandates at the U.S. border, GoFundMe on Friday shut down the Freedom Convoy 2022 fund that had been set up to support truck drivers participating in the demonstration.

“We now have evidence from law enforcement that the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity,” the fundraising platform stated in an alert posted on its website.

“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.”

The Freedom Convoy of mostly owner-operators who rolled into the Canadian capital last weekend began as a peaceful protest of restrictions imposed by U.S. and Canada requiring cross-border truckers to show proof of vaccination.

But the truckers quickly became outnumbered by an array of protesters representing a mix of interests and political affiliations, including extremists and secessionists. Some protesters were spotted carrying flags with swastikas, others danced on the Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and an inverted Canadian flag was placed on a statue of activist Terry Fox.

Last month GoFundMe froze more than CA$4.7 million ($3.7 million) that had been raised for the convoy until the platform had received more information about how funds will be distributed. Earlier this week it warned that recent events in Ottawa had generated widespread discussion about the Freedom Convoy 2022 fundraiser.

“We strictly prohibit user content that reflects or promotes behavior in support of violence — in this case, the organizer met our requirements and the fundraiser did not violate our Terms of Service at the time of creation,” the platform stated on Feb. 2.

But after conferring with law enforcement the platform decided on Friday to pull the plug on the account after it had released CA$1 million ($783,000) of the funds to organizers.

“Given how this situation has evolved, no further funds will be directly distributed to the Freedom Convoy organizers — we will work with organizers to send all remaining funds to credible and established charities chosen by the Freedom Convoy 2022 organizers and verified by GoFundMe.”

GoFundMe it initially stated that donors could submit a request for a full refund until Feb. 19. However, after receiving donor feedback, the platform updated the policy on Saturday.

“To simplify the process for our users, we will be refunding all donations to the Freedom Convoy 2022 fundraiser. This refund will happen automatically — you do not need to submit a request. Donors can expect to see refunds within 7-10 business days.”

Canadian officials, meanwhile, are growing increasingly frustrated with the protesters and the behavior by some of them and the trucks clogging up significant portions of downtown Ottawa. On Wednesday, Ottawa’s police chief said he couldn’t rule out requesting assistance from the military — something Trudeau has rejected.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.