US funds for protests in Canada could also influence American politics

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Canadians, who have disrupted travel and trade with the US and occupied downtown Ottawa for nearly three weeks, have been lashed out by American right-wing activists and conservative politicians who also oppose vaccination mandates and the country’s liberal leader ask, cheered and funded.

But whatever the impact the protests are having on Canadian society and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration, experts say the outside support is really aimed at energizing conservative politics in the upcoming US midterm elections, and some Republicans believe that it will help protesters in the North mobilize fundraising and turnout at home, these experts say.

“The kind of narratives that the truckers and the trucker convoy focus on are going to be really important themes for the upcoming (US) election,” said Samantha Bradshaw, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University’s Digital Civil Society Lab. “And using this protest as an opportunity to mobilize their own supporters and other groups I think is a very good opportunity for them.”

By Wednesday afternoon, all previously blocked border crossings had reopened and police were beginning to focus on pressuring Ottawa truckers and other protesters to leave the capital or face arrest, fines and the confiscation of their vehicles .

About 44 percent of the nearly $10 million in donations to support the protesters came from U.S. donors, according to an Associated Press analysis of leaked donor files. Republican elected officials, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, have praised the protesters, calling them “heroes” and “patriots.”

“What this country faces is a largely foreign-funded, targeted and coordinated attack on critical infrastructure and our democratic institutions,” said Bill Blair, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, earlier this week.


Fuel and food were regularly supplied to protesters in Ottawa, and the area around Parliament Hill at times resembled a spectacular carnival, complete with bouncy castles, gymnasium, a playground and a concert stage with DJs.

GiveSendGo, a fundraising website for the Canadian protests, has raised at least $9.58 million, including $4.2 million, or 44%, which is from the United States, according to a donor information database that were posted online by DDoSecrets, a Non -winning group.

However, the Canadian government has worked to block protesters’ access to these funds, and it is not clear how much of the money ultimately got through.

Millions of dollars raised through another crowdfunding site, GoFundMe, have been blocked after Canadian officials objected to the company, who found the effort violated its Terms of Service regarding illegal activity.

The GiveSendGo database analyzed by the AP showed more than 109,000 donations to campaigns supporting the protests as of Friday night, with just under 62,000 coming from the United States

The GiveSendGo data listed several Americans who donated thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to the protest, with the largest single donation of $90,000 coming from a person posing as Thomas M. Siebel.

Siebel, the billionaire founder of software company Siebel Systems, did not respond to messages sent to an email address associated with a foundation he runs and to his LinkedIn account.

A representative from the Siebel Scholars Foundation, who signed only Jennifer, did not respond to questions about donating the money. However, she said Siebel has a record of supporting multiple causes, including efforts to “protect individual liberty.”

“These are personal initiatives and have nothing to do with the companies he is affiliated with,” she wrote.

According to Federal Election Commission records, Siebel has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and organizations over the past 20 years, including a $400,000 donation in 2019 to a GOP fundraising committee called “Take Back the House 2020.”

The GiveSendGo Freedom Convoy campaign was launched on January 27th by Tamara Lich. She was previously a member of the far-right Maverick Party, which advocates independence for western Canada.

The Canadian government stopped funding the protesters earlier this week by extending the scope of the country’s anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regulations to crowdfunding platforms like GiveSendGo.

“We are making these changes because we know these platforms are being used to support illegal blockades and illegal activities that are hurting Canada’s economy,” Canadian Treasury Secretary Chrystia Freeland said.

Perhaps more important than the financial backing is the cheering the Canadian protesters have received from prominent American conservative politicians and pundits who see kindred spirits in their northern neighbors who oppose vaccination mandates.

On the same day that Lich created the GiveSendGo campaign, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn shared a video of the convoy in a post on the messaging app Telegram.

“These truckers are standing up to the nonsense and tyranny coming from the Canadian government in particular,” wrote Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and briefly serving as national security adviser to former President Donald Trump.

A few days later, Flynn urged people to donate to the Canadian protesters. Earlier this week, he twice posted the message “#TrudeauTheCoward” on Telegram, referring to the prime minister who leads Canada’s Liberal Party.

Fox News anchors regularly praise the protests, and Trump chimed in with a broadside against Trudeau, calling him an “insane left-wing extremist” who “destroyed Canada with insane COVID mandates.” Cruz called the truckers “heroes” and “patriots,” and Greene said she can’t wait to see a convoy protest in Washington.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said last week in an interview with the Daily Signal, a news website run by the conservative Heritage Foundation, that truckers are coming to America and “clogging cities.”

Inspired by the Canadian actions, far-right and anti-vaccine activists are now planning American versions of the protests against COVID-19 mandates and restrictions, modeled on the Canadian demonstrations.

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Swenson reported from New York and Smith from Providence, Rhode Island. Associated Press writers Amanda Seitz in Washington, Larry Fenn in New York, Frank Bajak in Boston, and Camille Fassett in Oakland, California contributed to this report.

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