A trucking blockade formed to protest vaccination mandates at the Canadian border, dubbed the Freedom Convoy, began on Jan. 28. On Feb. 6, ten days into the protest that had taken over Ottawa’s city center, Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency.
“[The state of emergency] reflects the serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents posed by the ongoing demonstrations and highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government,” Watson said in the declaration.
Organizers with the Freedom Convoy have rallied to support the demonstrators by launching donation pages. According to Google Trends data, when searching for "Freedom Convoy," searches related to GoFundMe were also trending.
Editor’s note: This is a developing story. VERIFY will be continuing to monitor for claims around the Freedom Convoy. Want something verified from the protests? Email your questions about the convoy to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did GoFundMe remove a fundraising page for the Freedom Convoy?
- Tamara Lich, an organizer with the Freedom Convoy
- Press conference hosted by Freedom Convoy organizers Tom Marazzo & Daniel Bulford
Yes, GoFundMe did remove the fundraiser from its platform. Organizers with the Freedom Convoy moved to an alternative fundraising site.
WHAT WE FOUND
Tamara Lich, a Freedom Convoy organizer and former member of Canada’s Maverick Party, created a GoFundMe page on Jan. 14, with the purpose of providing fuel and supplies for truckers traveling to Canada’s capital city of Ottawa to protest the country’s vaccine mandates.
On Jan. 15, the Canadian government required all truckers crossing the border to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to avoid a 14-day quarantine. On Jan. 22, the United States began enforcing a similar requirement, mandating that people entering the U.S. from the northern and southern borders be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and be prepared to show related proof of vaccination.
GoFundMe announced on Feb. 4 that after working with local law enforcement in Ottawa, the company made the decision to remove the fundraiser from the platform. A Wayback Machine screenshot of the fundraising page from Feb. 3 shows a disclaimer that the fundraiser was paused, and at that time $10,098,200 had been raised. The Wayback Machine is an internet archiving tool that stores snapshots of websites over time.
On Jan. 27, a GoFundMe spokesperson told VERIFY that $1 million had been withdrawn by the event organizers. The spokesperson said the $1 million was allowed to be withdrawn after organizers provided a clear distribution plan that funds were being used to cover fuel costs of protesters.
GoFundMe explained in the Feb. 4 announcement that they initially allowed the fundraiser because it was believed to be a peaceful protest, but GoFundMe later cited “evidence from law enforcement that the previously peaceful demonstration has now become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity.”
“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. 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 statement said.
According to GoFundMe, the donors will receive an automatic refund and do not need to fill out any type of request form.
In a press conference posted to Rumble, a video-sharing alternative to YouTube, Freedom Convoy Press Liaison Tom Marazzo said “millions of dollars in support have been delayed, but they can’t diminish our resolve.” He said he believes statements made regarding unlawful behavior and violence can be blamed on outside groups with a history of violent behavior, and not the Freedom Convoy participants.
A revived campaign was launched by organizers on alternative fundraising site GiveSendGo (Feb. 11 archive here), where more than $8.6 million has been collected with a $16 million goal. On the site, Lich posted a video acknowledging that GoFundMe did release $1 million, but froze the remaining contributions.