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GoFundMe says it will withhold millions of dollars raised for Canadian truckers protesting against vaccine mandates, citing police reports of violence.

The Freedom Convoy has been rallying since last weekend, and more protests are expected in Toronto and Ottawa.

In a statement, the crowdfunding website said it would withhold the donations already made, and refund donors who fill out a request form.

Another online platform has offered to take donations for the convoy instead.

Of the thousands who joined the truckers' protest, three people have so far been arrested: one for carrying a weapon, one charged with mischief under $5,000, and another with uttering threats on social media.

Donations to the GoFundMe page "Freedom Convoy 2022" had reached C$10m ($7.9m; £5.8m), with about C$1m released so far to organisers.

In a statement on Friday, GoFundMe said the demonstrations were peaceful when the fundraiser first started, but had since violated their terms of service prohibiting the promotion of violence and harassment.

"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," GoFundMe said.

The $1m that has already been released will only go to participants who went to Ottawa to peacefully protest, said GoFundMe.

"No further funds will be directly distributed to the Freedom Convoy organizers - we will work with organisers to send all remaining funds to credible and established charities verified by GoFundMe," its statement added.

Another online fundraising platform, GiveSendGo, announced it would accept donations for the convoy shortly after GoFundMe backed out.

In response to objections from Ottawa residents, organisers of the Freedom Convoy have promised to protest peacefully and respect the law, but also to "stay as long as it takes".

"We understand your frustration and genuinely wish there was another way for us to get our message across," convoy organiser Chris Barber said this week.

"The responsibility for your inconvenience lies squarely on the shoulders of politicians who prefer to vilify and call us names rather than engage in respectful, serious dialogue."

The demonstrators are in Ottawa "for the love of our families, our communities and our nation", said Tamara Lich, another organiser.

Ms Lich said she is offended by the portrayal of protesters as "racists, misogynists and even terrorists".

She said they are "average peace-loving and law-abiding citizens from all walks of life who are fed up with being disrespected and bullied by our government".

Police have said they are concerned about how the convoy has attracted extremist rhetoric.

GoFundMe’s $10M shutdown of Canadian truckers shows it’s time to rein in Big Tech

By Betsy McCaughey

When GoFundMe shut down funding Friday for the truckers’ Freedom Convoy, it didn’t just clobber Canadian rig drivers. It dealt a blow to the rights of Americans. Silicon Valley executives are trying to limit the causes Americans support, favoring leftist ones and canceling conservatives.

Canadian truckers launched a convoy to Ottawa last month, to protest Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s vaccine mandate on all rig drivers. Never mind the absurdity of requiring a truck driver alone behind the wheel for 18 hours a day to be vaccinated.

The convoy set up a fundraising site on GoFundMe to pay for fuel, food and lodging. Many Americans rushed to support it. It had reached $10 million in donations when GoFundMe pulled the plug.

Nearly one-quarter of Americans donate on crowdfunding sites, according to Pew Research. GoFundMe is the largest. It’s the public square for fundraising, and it should be open to all, regardless of their politics.

Yet GoFundMe shuts down fundraising for causes the left doesn’t like. That’s as dangerous to our democracy as when other Silicon Valley tech giants like Facebook and Twitter silence viewpoints.

We Americans have a constitutionally protected right to donate money to whatever causes we choose, the Supreme Court ruled in Buckley v. Valeo. Money funds political activity, and limiting where we can donate is like gagging our speech.

The Freedom Convoy reached Ottawa Jan. 29 and has clogged the city’s streets with 18-wheelers and demonstrators calling for health-care freedom and an end to overreaching government COVID mandates.

GoFundMe claims it shut down the truckers and won’t release their funds to them because of “reports of violence and other unlawful activity” violating the company’s terms of service.

That’s a joke. Even CNN reports “no bloodshed.” The New York Times concedes the worst is snarled traffic and blaring truck horns.

As of Friday evening, when GoFundMe permanently shut the site down, there had been only three arrests despite thousands protesting. As of Sunday, police reported more arrests and investigations, but the number is still minuscule overall. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s biggest complaint is that the truckers are showing “insensitivity” by creating noise and “turning it into a party.”

Compare that with the mayhem and violence in Portland, Ore., in 2020. Truth is, GoFundMe had no problem with that disorder. The site raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Portland General Defense Committee to defend rioters who set fire to police stations, vandalized city hall, wielded weapons and injured police officers.

Even now, GoFundMe is raising money for Black Lives Matter NYC to engage in “civil disobedience and disruption.” GoFundMe likes BLM’s brand of civil disobedience.

The framers of the Constitution banned government from censoring, but they didn’t anticipate Big Tech. Democrats are happy to deputize Silicon Valley lefties to muzzle the deplorables and prevent an exchange of ideas. And money.

Democrats in Congress insist Big Tech should stamp out “misinformation.” Trudeau slammed the truckers for spreading “misinformation.”

Who decides what’s misinformation? Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said the “best test of truth” is whether it survives in “the competition of the market.” Silicon Valley is snuffing out competition.

There are two remedies. The first is for Congress to regulate Big Tech like public utilities or common carriers, compelling them to serve all customers without viewpoint discrimination. Water companies and railroads can’t deny service to customers with unpopular opinions. Big Tech should operate by the same rules.

Unfortunately, such legislation is unlikely to pass. About half of Democratic members’ stock holdings are in Big Tech, compared with only 14% for Republicans.

The second remedy is the Supreme Court. It’s possible the majority will limit Big Tech censorship when a case arises.

In April 2021, Justice Clarence Thomas warned, in a concurring opinion, that the CEOs of the social-media giants — a mere handful of executives — have the power to exclude even a president of the United States from the digital public square.

Thomas appears poised to rule that the First Amendment bans censorship not only by government but also by social media.

GoFundMe’s attack on the Freedom Convoy is the latest red flag that Silicon Valley’s power over us has to be stopped.

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York.

Twitter: @Betsy_McCaughey

Ottawa Declares State of Emergency as Vaccine Protests Continue

Ottawa declares state of emergency.Source: Bloomberg

“People are starting to ask, what is the point or what is the efficacy of these restrictions?’” said Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, a research firm in Vancouver.

A late January poll by the institute found 54% of Canadians want to end restrictions and let people self-isolate if they’re at risk. That was up 14 percentage points from just a few weeks earlier. Omicron, a variant that’s highly infectious but appears less likely to cause serious illness, has changed the perception of risk, Kurl said.

The reaction is “not knee-jerk. It’s just been building,” she said.

As Covid fatigue turns into angst, weary government leaders must decide whether it’s time to start treating the virus as an endemic disease, like seasonal flu. Experts have warned that might be premature. But if Canada is any guide, there will likely be growing public pressure to remove restrictions, whether the science supports that or not.

In Ottawa, protests saw thousands of people gather in front of Canada’s parliament buildings last weekend. (A separate protest blocked an important border crossing in the west for days.) The numbers have dwindled this week, but police expect they will grow again this weekend, and trucker demonstrations are also planned in Toronto.

Inside the capital, it’s the ongoing presence of hundreds of rigs that has made this a unique event. Although there has been almost no violence or property damage, the crowd of trucks lends the demonstrations a menacing air, with the implied threat of heavy machinery in the streets. The city center is almost entirely blockaded, with trucks spilling out into residential neighborhoods. Drivers blast deafening air horns all day and, in some cases, deep into the night.

The protests started in reaction to Canadian and U.S. laws that went into effect in January, requiring truckers crossing the border to be fully vaccinated. They have morphed into a fury over Covid restrictions more broadly. Measures to control omicron hit the economy hard in January, resulting in the country losing 200,100 jobs during the month, Statistics Canada said Friday.

“I’m here because I’ve been segregated from my family,” Cody Ward, a 30-year-old father of three, said while hanging out in the four-door sedan he drove in from Nova Scotia. Parked less than a mile from the House of Commons, near an intersection with apartment buildings and a Catholic church, Ward was surrounded by scores of trucks, lined up three lanes across.

Ward said that some extended family members won’t let him into their homes because he’s unvaccinated and he blamed Canada’s politicians for creating a divisive environment. He said he’d arrived in Ottawa on Tuesday and is prepared to demonstrate for weeks, or even months.

Trucker Talk

About a third of Canadians support the idea of the protest

53% Oppose

32% Support

16% Neither/Don't know

Source: Innovative Research Group poll taken after last weekend's protest.

Note: 20% strongly support, 12% somewhat support, 36% strongly oppose, 17% somewhat oppose

He’s not a trucker, but he’s been taken in by an “Adopt-a-Trucker” program set up by protest organizers, and a local couple is giving him food and shelter. About a third of Canadians support the protest, while 36% think Trudeau should scrap the vaccine mandate for truckers, according to new polling from Innovative Research Group.

More than C$10 million ($7.8 million) was raised for the protesters on a GoFundMe page, but the crowd-funding site shut it down on Friday, citing reports from police of violence and other unlawful activity.

Trudeau -- who labeled the trucker convoy a “fringe minority” -- has shown no sign of reversing his government’s vaccine mandates. He campaigned and won last year’s election promising to protect health care and impose new travel restrictions on the unvaccinated.

Yet the backlash is being felt by political leaders. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, Trudeau’s primary rival in the 2021 election, was dumped by his caucus this week in a putsch led by lawmakers who disliked the party’s turn to the center. For some, his refusal to embrace the protesters’ cause was another sign of weakness. After deposing him in a vote on Wednesday, a few went out and posed for pictures with the truckers.

Quebec’s premier backed down on a threat to impose a special tax on unvaccinated residents. The government of Saskatchewan, in the heart of country’s more conservative west, said it will scrap all restrictions soon, including proof-of-vaccination requirements for public places.

“Eradicating Covid is not realistic and Covid zero is not achievable,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Thursday, imploring residents to live normal lives. “Have dinner with your friends. Go to the movies. Go to your kids’ games, most importantly. You should do all of these things without constantly assessing if your every activity is absolutely necessary.”

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