GoFundMe ends payments to convoy protest, citing reports of violence and harassment

The crowdfunding platform GoFundMe says it will stop payments to the organizers of Freedom Convoy 2022 because the protest violates its rules on violence and harassment.

Organizers had raised more than $10M through the online platform

GoFundMe cuts off convoy protest

2 years ago
Duration 2:40
GoFundMe will not disburse any more money from a fundraising campaign for the protest convoy, saying the money will be refunded. Meanwhile, Ottawa police are changing tactics ahead of what's expected to be another weekend of noisy protests.

The crowdfunding platform GoFundMe says it will stop payments to the organizers of Freedom Convoy 2022 and refund donors directly because the protest violates its rules on violence and harassment.

The company announced its decision in a blog post on Friday evening, just two days after it froze disbursements of the fund.

"GoFundMe supports peaceful protests and we believe that was the intention of the Freedom Convoy 2022 fundraiser when it was first created," the company said in the post.

"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 company said the protest violates a rule in its terms of service that prohibits the promotion of violence and harassment. The fundraising page for the convoy has been deleted from GoFundMe's website.

Participants in the demonstration have displayed symbols of hate, including the Confederate flag and swastikas, while protesting. Truckers parked in downtown Ottawa have also made residents miserable by blaring their horns at all hours.

Organizers have said they will stay in Ottawa until the federal government lifts all pandemic restrictions. Canada Unity, the group claiming responsibility for organizing the protest, has published a document that calls for the resignation of Canada's senators and the Governor General if its demands are not met.

WATCH | Ottawa police will send more officers to protest areas: 

Ottawa police deploying additional officers amid ongoing protest

2 years ago
Duration 1:56
About 150 additional police officers will be on patrol in Ottawa as the city braces for another weekend of protest against COVID-19 mandates. Officers will be addressing 'unlawful threatening conduct' in the most affected neighbourhoods, says the city's police Chief Peter Sloly

Tamara Lich, one of the organizers of the protest's GoFundMe page, posted a video message on Friday evening directing supporters to a new online fundraiser hosted by GiveSendGo, a Christian fundraising site that was blocked by PayPal last year after it was used to raise funds for people who attended the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

"Please, if you can donate and help us keep these truckers going, we plan to be here for the long haul," she said. "As long as it takes to make sure that your rights and freedoms are restored."

More than 120,000 donors contributed nearly $10.1 million to the fund. A CBC News analysis found that about one-third of donors were anonymous or used aliases and that many of the donations were made from outside Canada.

GoFundMe initially said donors could request a refund over the next two weeks and it would "work with organizers to send all remaining funds to credible and established charities verified by GoFundMe."

Early Saturday, however, the company said it would instead be automatically refunding people who had given money to the fundraiser, "due to donor feedback."

GoFundMe released $1 million to the organizers earlier this week before it froze the payments. It said organizers were able to prove that money would be used for participants involved in peaceful protest.

As of Saturday morning, donors had given more than $800,000 to the fundraiser set up with GiveSendGo.

Premier says protest has become an 'occupation'

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson thanked GoFundMe for freezing the funds shortly after the decision was announced.

"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," Watson wrote.

Trucks and protesters are entering their second week of demonstations in downtown Ottawa. (Christian Milette/CBC/Radio-Canada)

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Friday that he believes the protest has become "an occupation" and urged participants to leave.

"It's time for this to come to an end," he said.

Other elected officials — primarily Conservative MPs — expressed their support for the protest as recently as Wednesday of this week.

Paloma Raggo, a Carleton University professor specializing in non-profits and philanthropy, said she was surprised that GoFundMe did not block the fund sooner, since it never appeared to be a legitimate charity.

Raggo said the federal government should explore regulating crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe to prevent future misuses of its services.

"This is not the first time that this has happened. Should it be the last? Maybe. And maybe it's time we have laws on the books for that," she said.

WATCH | NDP MP says GoFundMe should testify at Parliament: 

GoFundMe says it will not release any more funds to the 'Freedom Convoy'

2 years ago
Duration 2:47
B.C. New Democratic Party MP Alistair MacGregor joins Power & Politics to discuss GoFundMe's decision and why he thinks the company should still be made to testify before a parliamentary committee.

A parliamentary committee has called on GoFundMe executives to testify about the company's operations, including its measures to prevent the funding of extremism and hate.

Organizers facing possible class-action lawsuit

Organizers of the protest were dealt another blow on Friday evening in the form of a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Ottawa residents who live near the protest.

The statement of claim accuses the organizers of the protest of causing significant harm to residents due to their use of loud truck horns for "12 to 16 hours" daily.

The lawsuit notes that people who live near Parliament Hill are accustomed to protests, "but they have never experienced anything like the constant and excruciatingly loud horns of the defendants' Freedom Convoy."

It is seeking $5 million in "punitive damages" and another $4.8 million in "private nuisance" damages. The lawsuit has been filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

"The Freedom Convoy horn protest organized by the defendants has caused significant mental distress, suffering and torment," the document says.


Nick Boisvert is a multimedia journalist at the CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. He previously covered municipal politics for CBC News in Toronto. You can reach him at nick.boisvert@cbc.ca.