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Elon Musk–backed ‘freedom truckers’ in Canada get Bitcoin lifeline after GoFundMe freezes millions in donations

February 8, 2022, 8:04 PM UTC

Online fundraising platform GoFundMe announced last week that it was removing from its website the donation campaign for the trucker protest group “Freedom Convoy” that is currently winding its way through Canada. 

The convoy protests, now in their second week, began in late January after a loosely organized group of truckers banded together to drive from the westernmost Canadian province of British Columbia to Ottawa, Ontario—the national capital—to voice their opposition against COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truckers crossing the U.S.-Canada border. 

Following a “review of relevant facts and multiple discussions with local law enforcement and city officials,” GoFundMe found that the fundraiser for the trucker convoy was in violation of its terms of service, which “prohibits the promotion of violence and harassment,” the company said in an official statement. The funds from the donation campaign—nearly $8 million—will be automatically refunded to donors.

But the convoy protesters have now found another donation lifeline: a group of Canadian libertarian Bitcoin evangelists who go by the moniker “HonkHonkHodl.” On Twitter, the group described themselves as an initiative to “orange pill Canadian truckers.” The term is a play on the red pill and blue pill concept from the 1999 movie The Matrix—“red-pilling” in recent years has also been adopted by alt-right communities who claim to know the “real” truth about society. Taking the “orange pill” refers to people who buy Bitcoin, which evangelists say represents financial freedom and monetary sovereignty. 

“HonkHonkHodl” is a group of four—Greg Booth, Jeff Foss, and two men who go by online pseudonyms “Nobody Cariboo” and “BTC Sessions,” according to Canadian publication The Star—who created a crypto crowdfunding campaign on the platform Tallycoin as an alternative funding portal for the “Freedom Convoy.” 

“Legacy financial infrastructure…can be politicized and clamped down upon,” the group wrote on their Tallycoin fundraising page. “Bitcoin is truly censorship-resistant. Don’t allow your voices to be silenced.”

HonkHonkHodl and GoFundMe didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment. 

The crypto fundraiser, which launched a few days before GoFundMe froze the trucker donation page on its platform, gained more prominence after the GoFundMe shutdown and major donations from well-known members of the crypto community. Jesse Powell, cofounder and CEO of Kraken, one of the world’s biggest crypto exchanges, donated approximately $43,592 to HonkHonkHodl. Powell voiced his support for the Freedom Convoy on Tallycoin: “Fix the money, fix the world. Mandates are immoral. End the madness. Honk Honk! #FreedomConvoy2022,” he wrote. 

As of Tuesday morning, 4,396 contributors have donated 12.50448618 in Bitcoin (BTC), the equivalent of approximately $543,691 to the Bitcoin fundraiser for truckers. The funds will be directed into a “multi-signature wallet”—a cryptocurrency wallet that needs two or more private keys in order to make transactions—controlled by the group’s founders who will determine where the funds should be allocated, wrote HonkHonkHodl on Twitter.

What began as a convoy of Canadian truckers protesting cross-border vaccine requirements has now grown into a larger protest movement of people fed up with vaccine mandates and pandemic restrictions. The protests have also evolved into broader opposition against Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, with the hashtag #TrudeauMustResign trending on Canadian Twitter.

Demonstrators have rallied around the slogan of “freedom over fear,” and have called on Canadians to stand up against vaccination passports, lockdowns, and COVID mandates to “make Canada free again.” But Canadian police have voiced their concerns over the growing extremist and far-right elements among the protesters; as of Sunday, Ottawa police have arrested 60 people tied to the demonstrations over “mischief, thefts, hate crimes, and property damage.” Some protesters have been seen displaying swastikas and Confederate flags.

Around 80% of Canadians are fully vaccinated, and 65% of Canadians believe that the Freedom Convoy represents a “small minority of selfish Canadians,” according to a new poll conducted by survey and research firm Leger. Still, 44% of the fully vaccinated Canadians surveyed sympathized with the protesters’ frustrations and concerns, the poll showed. The convoy has “captured and crystallized” the underlying frustration that’s simmering among a broader populace of the Canadian public, said Leger’s executive vice president Andrew Enns to the Canadian Press. “It’s a bit of a message for [the] leadership that this might be a bigger problem,” Enns said.

The protesters have drawn support from prominent figures like Elon Musk, who tweeted “Canadian truckers rule” in late January; and former U.S. President Donald Trump who issued a statement saying that the convoy is “peacefully protesting the harsh policies of far left lunatic Justin Trudeau who has destroyed Canada with insane COVID mandates.” U.S. right-wing figures like Ben Shapiro and Michael Flynn have also voiced their support for the protests and shared fundraising sites to donate to the demonstrators. Meanwhile, similar anti-mandate protests inspired by Canada have spread to Australia and New Zealand.

On Sunday, the mayor of Ottawa, Jim Watson, declared a state of emergency in Canada’s capital city as thousands of Freedom Convoy protesters occupied the city’s downtown core. Protesting truckers in Canada on late Monday evening began blocking traffic on the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit with Windsor, Ontario—the busiest land crossing from the U.S. to Canada.

Yesterday evening, Prime Minister Trudeau said during an emergency meeting at the House of Commons in Ottawa that Canada will always protect the right of Canadians to “protest, disagree with their government, and to make their voices heard.”

But Trudeau said that the protesters “don’t have the right to blockade our economy, or our democracy, or our fellow citizens’ daily lives. It has to stop.” 

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