On Friday, the crowdsourcing platform GoFundMe, at the behest of the Ottawa Police, seized over $10 million in charitable contributions that were meant for the Freedom Convoy 2022 organizers.
We want to thank @gofundme for listening to our concerns as a City and a police service. The decision to withhold funding for these unlawful demonstrations is an important step and we call on all crowdfunding sites to follow.
— Ottawa Police (@OttawaPolice) February 5, 2022
Later that day, an attorney working with the Freedom Convoy organizers named Keith Wilson delivered a chilling statement about what they were up against.
“It’s Friday, February 4th,” Wilson said. “And I’m speaking to you from the hotel at the center of the truckers freedom convoy in downtown Ottawa.”
“Over the past year, the federal government in Canada or prime minister, Trudeau has taken away Canadians’ charter rights, constitutional rights to travel freely, has taken away truckers’ rights to travel, their mobility rights, their ability to make a living under the constitution for those who’ve chosen to be unvaccinated,” he continued.
“This afternoon, the chief of the city police for Ottawa made announcements that are disturbing and should trouble Canadians and those around the world who support this trucker protest for freedom,” the lawyer added. “The police chief essentially announced an assault on the protestors. He announced that very specific measures that we normally only see instituted by oppressive regimes around the world would be initiated. He effectively announced that he is going to be taking away Canadian’s charter right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.”
“We are being censored,” he said. “Please get this out to the world.”
On Friday, Ottawa police said they are “stepping up measures to protect downtown neighbourhoods,” according to CTV News Ottawa.
“Chief Peter Sloly announced a new ‘surge and contain strategy’ Friday that he said would ‘restore order, hold offenders to account and protect our neighbourhoods’,” CTV News Ottawa added.
“The strategy includes sending 150 more officers to affected neighbourhoods to target unlawful behaviour connected to the ongoing occupation, which is a protest against COVID-19 mandates,” the report noted.
“The surge will deliver a clear message to the demonstrators: the lawlessness must end,” Chief Sloly said.
“The new measures also include barricading the protest ‘red zone’ using hundreds of concrete and heavy-equipment barricades, cutting off access to the downtown core for more vehicles,” CTV Ottawa continued. “Sloly said this will further isolate and contain the demonstration.”
“Incoming vehicles will be directed to designated parking zones outside the downtown core, and vehicles parked illegally will be ticketed and towed,” the report said. “Police said they may close highways, interprovincial bridges and major roadways to keep vehicles out of downtown. The city released a full list of road closures Friday afternoon.”
“Deputy Chief Steve Bell said police are expecting 300 to 400 trucks to try to enter the downtown core throughout the weekend, along with up to 2,000 people on foot,” the report added. “He also said police are expecting about 1,000 counter-protesters.”
“Bell said he understands residents’ frustration, but asked counter-protesters not to come downtown this weekend,” the report noted.
“We would like to not have that to be another dynamic we have to manage,” he said. “Let us successfully work to restore the trust and confidence in the police, restore feelings of safety and security in the neighbourhood, by being able to deploy our resources.”
‘There are about 200 to 250 trucks parked in the city right now,’ he said.
“Police say they have also increased efforts to identify protesters who are funding and enabling unlawful activity,” CTV Ottawa reported.
“The hatred, violence, and illegal acts that Ottawa residents and businesses have endured over the last week is unacceptable in any circumstance,” Sloly said.
“The current occupation of the Parliamentary Precinct remains unresolved despite significant success in reducing the number of trucks/demonstrators while preventing riots, injuries and death. We take no solace in these operational successes,” he added.
Rebel News reported that crime in the area of the protests is actually lower than what is typical for Ottawa.
“The crime rate in Ottawa, however, has declined during the convoy’s occupation as reported Friday morning in Blacklock’s Reporter”:
The truckers’ blockade covers ten square blocks in the Centretown district. Preliminary police data show street crime fell sharply in the district since the protest began last Friday.
The district saw 31 police calls for robbery, assault, drug trafficking, public drunkenness, stolen vehicles, store break-ins and other crimes in the week prior to the protest. There were three reports of street crime since the protest began for mischief, robbery and auto theft. Police yesterday said data were incomplete.
“There have been no riots, injuries or deaths,” Police Chief Peter Sloly testified Wednesday at the Municipal Police Services Board. “We are arresting, charging and investigating bad actors.” All charges against truckers to date involved routine traffic violations or breach of a local noise bylaw for horn honking.
The Freedom Convoy’s attorney, Keith Wilson, has confirmed that the new donation site is with the Christian crowdsourcing site GiveSendGo, which has pledged not to deplatform the Freedom Convoy organizers.
I confirm that this is the new official donation site for the Freedom Convoy 2022. Please help the truckers fighting for freedom. https://t.co/oHOldcL17y
— Keith Wilson, Q.C. (@ikwilson) February 5, 2022
GiveSendGo has been “all hands on deck” to upgrade its servers to handle the flood of those wanting to contribute. The platform has asked those trying to contribute to remain patient and try again if they had difficulty getting on the site earlier. As of the time of publication, the website was up and running.
GoFundMe now is not only in store for a legal battle, as state attorneys general prepare potential criminal action, but for a public relations nightmare. There are protests at GoFundMe headquarters in Redwood, California being organized. This is only the beginning.
"*" indicates required fields
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.