Washington (AP) – Canadians who disrupted travel and trade from the U.S. and the occupied center of Ottawa for nearly three weeks encouraged and funded U.S. right-wing activists and conservative politicians who also oppose vaccine mandates and the country’s liberal leader.
However, whatever effect the protests had on Canadian society, and the government of Prime Minister Justin TrudeauExperts say foreign support is indeed aimed at stepping up conservative policies in the US midterm elections, and some Republicans think protesting in the north will boost fundraising and voter turnout at home, the experts said.
“The narratives that truckers and truck convoys focus on will be really important issues for the upcoming (US) election,” said Samantha Bradshaw, a doctoral student in the Digital Civil Society Laboratory at Stanford University. “And so, using this protest as an opportunity to activate their supporters and other groups, I think it’s a very big opportunity for them.”
By Wednesday, all previously blocked border crossings had reopened, and police began to focus on pressure on truckers and other protesters in Ottawa leave the capital or threaten to arrest, fine and confiscate their vehicles.
About 44 percent of the nearly $ 10 million in support for the protesters came from U.S. donors, according to an Associated Press analysis of donor file leaks. Elected U.S. Republican officials, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Georgia MP Marjorie Taylor Green, praised the protesters, calling them “heroes” and “patriots.”
“What this country is facing is a targeted and coordinated attack on critical infrastructure and our democratic institutions, which is largely funded by foreign states,” said Canadian Secretary of Public Security and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair earlier this week.
Protesters in Ottawa were regularly supplied with fuel and food, and the area around Parliament Hill sometimes resembled a spectacular carnival with castles, gyms, a children’s playground and a concert stage with DJs.
GiveSendGo, the website used to collect donations for Canadian protests, has raised at least $ 9.58 million, including $ 4.2 million, or 44%, that originated in the United States. -profitable group.
The Canadian government is working to block protesters’ access to the funds, but it is unclear how much of the money ended up.
Millions of dollars raised through another crowdfunding site, GoFundMe, were blocked after Canadian officials objected to the company, which determined that the effort violated terms of service due to illegal activities.
The GiveSendGo database, analyzed by the AP, found that more than 109,000 donations were made to the campaign in support of the protests on Friday night, with just under 62,000 coming from the United States.
Data from GiveSendGo listed several Americans who gave thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to protest, with the largest donation of $ 90,000 coming from a man who identified himself as Thomas M. Sibel.
Siebel, a billionaire and founder of the software company Siebel Systems, did not respond to emails sent to the fund he manages and to his LinkedIn account.
A representative of the Siebel Scholars Foundation, who signed only as Jennifer, did not answer questions about whether he donated money. But she said Sibel supported several reasons, including efforts to “protect individual freedom.”
“These are personal initiatives and have nothing to do with the companies with which he is associated,” she wrote.
According to the Federal Election Commission, Sibel has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and organizations over the past 20 years, including a $ 400,000 contribution in 2019 to the Republican Party’s fundraising committee called Return Home 2020.
GiveSendGo Freedom Convoy was founded on January 27 by Tamara Leach. It used to belong to the far-right Maverick party, which is calling for western Canada to become independent.
Earlier this week, the Canadian government decided to stop funding protesters by extending the country’s anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing rules to cover crowdfunding platforms such as GiveSendGo.
“We are making these changes because we know that these platforms are being used to support the illegal blockade and illegal activities that are harming the Canadian economy,” said Canadian Finance Minister Christia Freeland.
Perhaps more important financial support is the cheerleading that Canadian protesters have received from prominent American conservative politicians and experts who see in their northern neighbors kindred spirits who oppose vaccine mandates.
The same day Leach set up GiveSendGo, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn shared a video of the convoy in a message in the Telegram messaging program.
“These truckers are fighting stupidity and tyranny, especially on the part of the Canadian government,” wrote Flynn, a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency who worked briefly as a national security adviser to former President Donald Trump.
A few days later, Flynn urged people to donate to Canadian protesters. Earlier this week, he twice published in the Telegram the message “#TrudeauTheCoward” with reference to the Prime Minister, who heads the Liberal Party of Canada.
Fox News hosts regularly praise the protests, and Trump has spoken out against Trudeau, calling him a “far-left lunatic” who “destroyed Canada with insane COVID mandates.” Cruz called the truckers “heroes” and “patriots,” and Green said she could not wait to see the convoy protest in Washington.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky, said he hoped truckers would come to America and “litter the cities” in an interview last week with the Daily Signal, the Conservative Foundation’s Heritage Foundation news site.
Far-right and anti-vaccine activists, inspired by Canada’s actions, are now planning American versions of protests against the mandates and restrictions of COVID-19 on the model of Canadian demonstrations.
Swenson reported from New York, and Smith – from Providence, Rhode Island. Associated Press authors Amanda Sates of Washington, D.C., Larry Fenn of New York, Frank Bayak of Boston, and Camille Faset of Auckland, California, contributed to the report.