GoFundMe withholds millions of dollars raised for Canadian truckers protesting against vaccine mandates

GoFundMe says it will withhold millions of dollars raised for Canadian truckers protesting against vaccine mandates, citing police reports of violence.

The Freedom Convoy has been rallying since last weekend, and more protests are expected in Toronto and Ottawa.

In a statement, the crowdfunding website said it would withhold the donations already made, and refund donors who fill out a request form.

Another online platform has offered to take donations for the convoy instead.

Of the thousands who joined the truckers’ protest, three people have so far been arrested: one for carrying a weapon, one charged with mischief under $5,000, and another with uttering threats on social media.

Donations to the GoFundMe page “Freedom Convoy 2022” had reached C$10 million, with about C$1 million released so far to organisers.

In a statement on Friday, GoFundMe said the demonstrations were peaceful when the fundraiser first started, but had since violated their terms of service prohibiting the promotion of violence and harassment.

“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,” GoFundMe said.

The $1 million that has already been released will only go to participants who went to Ottawa to peacefully protest, said GoFundMe.

“No further funds will be directly distributed to the Freedom Convoy organizers – we will work with organisers to send all remaining funds to credible and established charities verified by GoFundMe,” its statement added.

Another online fundraising platform, GiveSendGo, announced it would accept donations for the convoy shortly after GoFundMe backed out.

In response to objections from Ottawa residents, organisers of the Freedom Convoy have promised to protest peacefully and respect the law, but also to “stay as long as it takes”.

“We understand your frustration and genuinely wish there was another way for us to get our message across,” convoy organiser Chris Barber said this week.

“The responsibility for your inconvenience lies squarely on the shoulders of politicians who prefer to vilify and call us names rather than engage in respectful, serious dialogue.”

On Friday Ottawa police announced a new “surge and contain” strategy. Some 150 more officers will deploy to the city centre and a ‘red zone’ of police barricades is to expand.

Police also say they will do more to proactively investigate and charge anyone found violating the law.

Authorities are also expecting the protesters to be met by an estimated 1,000 counter-demonstrators.

On Friday, police chief Peter Sloly called the situation “unacceptable” and said the force is “absolutely committed to bringing this demonstration to an end”.

“I take great empathy with those that have endured unacceptable violations of their ability to live, raise their family [and] conduct business in this city,” he said.