Trucks are parked on Metcalfe Street as a rally against COVID-19 restrictions, which began as a cross-country convoy protesting a federal vaccine mandate for truckers, continues in Ottawa, Ontario, on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press via AP)

Trucks are parked on Metcalfe Street as a rally against COVID-19 restrictions, which began as a cross-country convoy protesting a federal vaccine mandate for truckers, continues in Ottawa, Ontario, on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press via AP)

GoFundMe removes Freedom Convoy fundraiser, says protest has ‘become an occupation’

GoFundMe says no further funds will be distributed to organizers

GoFundMe released a statement Friday (Feb. 4) saying the Freedom Convoy 2022 fundraiser that pulled in over $10 million violates their terms of service and has been removed from the platform.

“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 statement reads.

READ MORE: Trucker convoy GoFundMe paused as it tops $10M raised for anti-vaccine mandate protest

READ MORE: MP MacGregor leads GoFund Me probe call, as links to U.S. alleged in Ottawa protest

The move comes after the House of Commons public safety committee voted unanimously to invite representatives from GoFundMe to answer questions about security measures to ensure funds are not used to promote extremism. GoFundMe paused the fundraiser on Wednesday to conduct a review.

Tamara Lich, who started the GoFundMe said at a news conference on Thursday lawyers and accountants with the convoy had provided a detailed plan to GoFundMe. She said at the time she expected GoFundMe had all the information needed to “immediately lift the suspension” on the fundraiser.

GoFundMe said organizers did provide a clear distribution plan for the initial $1 million that was dispersed earlier this week, but no further funds will be distributed to Freedom Convoy organizers.

“We will work with organizers to send all remaining funds to credible and established charities verified by GoFundMe.”

A day after GoFundMe made the decision, they announced all donors would receive refunds within seven to 10 business days. Initially, the company said donors would have to fill out refund requests, but changed course after “donor feedback”.

In a Tweet, Ottawa mayor Jim Watson thanked GoFundMe for the move.

“These protesters have been holding our city hostage for a week now, and I’m hopeful that limiting their access to funding and resources will restrict their ability to remain in Ottawa.”

“I am imploring similar crowdfunding platforms to take the same position and not enable the group in its fundraising efforts, which would deal a blow to our efforts to put an end to this occupation.”

Convoy organizers have pivoted to direct donations and the fundraising platform GiveSendGo to keep money flowing. GiveSendGo says it has faced Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks to prevent people from accessing the site, however $1.1 million has been raised so far.

On the heels of GoFundMe’s decision, Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ filed a statement of claim in Ontario Superior Court for a class-action lawsuit against the convoy’s organizers seeking $9.8 million in damages and an injunction to prohibit the “continuation of the nuisance.”

Further convoys are planned for this weekend in Ottawa and beyond.

READ MORE: Cities in British Columbia prepare for trucker convoy protests


@SchislerCole
cole.schisler@bpdigital.ca

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