The well-known fundraising platform GoFundMe denied giving $10 million to the organizers of a protest led by truck drivers in Canada who are against the vaccine mandate in that country. However, in the face of the denial, two new alternatives emerged for the protesters.
A Christian crowdfunding site called GiveSendGo enabled the “Freedom Convoy” campaign to raise more than $3.5 million in two days. They also began taking donations through Tallycoin, a fundraising platform built on the Bitcoin blockchain.
After GoFundMe announced it would freeze more than $8 million in donations to the truckers’ cause, GOP officials in the U.S. announced investigations.
The convoy began as a protest to U.S. and Canadian regulations requiring cross-border truckers to be fully vaccinated to enter either country; in the face of mass nonconformity, it grew into a movement against many public health measures.
As of noon on Saturday, February 5, the Ottawa Police Service reported 1,000 vehicles, some 5,000 demonstrators and at least 300 protesters on the city’s streets.
On Sunday, Ottawa declared a state of emergency as protesters in large trucks blocked streets, set off fireworks and honked horns.
Prosecutors investigate GoFundMe for misappropriating funds
GoFundMe said Friday it had removed a convoy fundraiser that had raised more than $8 million because it allegedly violated its terms of service.
The company said it had released an initial $1 million donation to Freedom Convoy organizers last week after they provided a clear distribution plan and confirmed it would only be used for those participating in a peaceful protest. But they later called the peaceful demonstration “an occupation.”
It further expressed that no additional funds would be distributed to its organizers and instead donors would have two weeks to submit a refund request, it would then work with the convoy organizers to send the remaining money to other charities.
GoFundMe’s decision drew the ire of conservatives on both sides of the border and drew special scrutiny from several Republican attorneys general, who vowed to investigate the platform.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, prompted the investigation into GoFundMe’s alleged deceptive practices, followed by at least four other attorneys general from states such as Florida, Louisiana, Ohio and Texas.
Threats of an investigation continued even after the platform announced Saturday that it would refund all contributions automatically amid backlash from donors.
“What they publicly proposed to do is unfair and potentially a violation of Ohio law,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) said in an interview with The Washington Post.
Yost directed his office to gather testimony from Ohioans to determine whether the company violated business laws. Once that process is complete, Yost will decide whether to file a lawsuit against GoFundMe. However, he said he wants to make sure future donors don’t run the risk of having their money diverted to a different cause.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said his office has “assembled a team to investigate” possible fraud, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said he would direct his attorney general to do the same.
Attorneys general accused GoFundMe of fraud, deception and favoring politicians with the fundraising efforts it chooses to promote.
Paxton has cast the issue in political terms, calling GoFundMe a “BLM-backing company.” Likewise, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said Sunday that he sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking it to investigate the platform.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk joined the criticism and shared a meme calling GoFundMe “professional thieves.”