Here’s how the so-called Freedom Convoy is still raising ‘thousands of dollars’ per minute even without GoFundMe

OTTAWA — Organizers of the so-called “Freedom Convoy” have already raised more than $1.4 million through a new online fundraising service, after police reports from the protesters occupying the streets around Parliament Hill prompted GoFundMe to shut down their original donation page.

The new fundraiser is hosted by GiveSendGo, a similar online service that describes itself as the “#1 Free Christian Crowdfunding Site” and was used to raise money for groups including the far-right Proud Boys that participated in the 2021 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, according to a data breach from the site reported on by the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper in April.

As of Saturday evening, the new “Freedom Convoy 2022” fundraiser that organizers advertised on social media had received more than $1.4 million in donations, with a total goal of $16 million, to focus for now on the cost of fuel for the protests, according to the new page.

But that’s not the only page that says it’s raising money for the convoy. One campaign called “Adopt-a-Trucker” created by user Chris Garrah has raised more than $323,000 in two days.

Supporters are also turning to cryptocurrency websites to raise money for the protests. One such campaign, “Bitcoin For Truckers,” has raised more than $163,000 in about a day.

“What you have happening is not one or two big donors, but lots of smaller donations from lots of people coming in. It is sometimes as little $10 or $50,” said Candyce Kelshall, the president of the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Vancouver, who has been tracking how the organizers of the Ottawa occupation have been raising money.

“The effect is thousands of dollars coming in every minute.”

In a briefing to the city’s police services board on Saturday, Ottawa’s top cop acknowledged there are new sources of money flowing to the convoy, calling the suspension of the group’s GoFundMe page — which had reaped more than $10 million in donations — a “temporary reprieve.”

“We are now going after supply and fuel coming into the area through investigations and intelligence operations,” said Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly.

Again on Saturday, as a resurgence of thousands of protesters returned to join the core group of convoy protesters who have occupied city streets for more than a week, demonstrators delivered fuel to idling trucks and cooked on barbecues and stoves. Participants handed out food from a wooden shack built next to the Rideau Canal, where protesters also kept a stockpile of firewood and used a row of porta-potties installed under a bridge.

The sources of funding for the convoy demonstration in Canada’s capital city have become a focus for police and some federal politicians. Opposition to the protests has gained traction after Nazi swastikas and Confederate flags were spotted among the demonstrations last weekend, and police warned of potential weapons in the crowds and arrested a man for allegedly trying to bring a gun to the protests.

Reports of alleged harassment, along with loud honking of trucks that has lasted more than a week, have also fuelled the frustration of city residents, some of whom staged a counterprotest to condemn the convoy demonstrations on Saturday.

Ottawa police say they are investigating more than 50 alleged crimes linked with the protest, including 11 alleged hate crimes.

Earlier this week, Sloly flagged how funding for the protesters was coming from the United States and potentially other countries. The Parliamentary Black Caucus released a letter on Friday — signed by dozens of MPs, senators and Liberal cabinet ministers — that called for details about donations to the convoy to be disclosed publicly.

In a video posted online Friday, convoy organizer Tamara Lich said GoFundMe released $1 million of the money raised before it suspended the group’s donation page. Lich said the organizers decided to start a new fundraising campaign through GiveSendGo to “get donations into the hands of the truckers much, much quicker.”

She then appealed for support and said the convoy protesters are in it “for the long haul” and plan to remain “as long as it takes to ensure that your rights and freedoms are restored” — referring to the protesters’ claim that COVID-19 health restrictions violate fundamental rights.

Kelshall, the expert tracking the financial support for the convoy, said the end of the GoFundMe campaign may have deepened the resolve of the protesters and their supporters. It also motivated them to find other ways to raise money that are less likely to be shut down.

“This was never about truckers,” said Kelshall, who described the organizing factions as highly motivated, well-coordinated anti-government groups.

“De-platforming them only reinforces what they believe. They see themselves being attacked by authorities when they are de-platformed, and they say ‘Look we were right.’”

With files from Raisa Patel