A former American ambassador to Canada said groups in the US need to cease interfering in what many call an “occupation” in Ottawa as thousands protest vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions.
Protesters continued to hold loud rallies on Sunday in cities across the country in a show of solidarity with a week-long demonstration in the capital.
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“Under no circumstances should any group in the USA fund disruptive activities in Canada. Period. Full stop,” Bruce Heyman, a former US ambassador under Barack Obama, tweeted late on Saturday.
After crowdfunding site GoFundMe said it would refund or redirect to charities the vast majority of millions raised by demonstrators protesting COVID-19 measures in the Canadian capital, prominent US Republicans such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis complained.
“It is a fraud for @gofundme to commandeer $9M in donations sent to support truckers and give it to causes of their own choosing,” DeSantis tweeted.
It is a fraud for @gofundme to commandeer $9M in donations sent to support truckers and give it to causes of their own choosing.
I will work with @AGAshleyMoody to investigate these deceptive practices — these donors should be given a refund.
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) February 5, 2022
He added he would investigate these deceptive practices and donors should be given a refund.
But GoFundMe had already changed its mind and said it would be issuing refunds to all. The company said it cut off funding for the organisers because it had determined the effort violated the site’s terms of service due to unlawful activity.
The so-called Freedom Convoy began as a movement against a vaccine requirement for cross-border truckers but has turned into a rallying point against public health measures.
Protesters have shut down downtown Ottawa for more than a week, with some participants waving Confederate or Nazi flags and some saying they want to dissolve Canada’s government.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford called the protests an occupation.
US Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has embraced conspiracy theories, also denounced GoFundMe for the move.
In Canada’s largest city, Toronto, police set up roadblocks throughout downtown, preventing any protesters in trucks or cars from getting near the provincial legislature, which is near five major hospitals. Police later moved in to clear a key intersection in the city.
Thousands descended on Ottawa again this weekend. Participants roasted hotdogs and doled out baked goods under tarps, while two men on horseback trotted through the city, one carrying a flag in support of former US President Donald Trump.
The former US president has spoken out in support of the truckers against “the harsh policies of far-left lunatic [Prime Minister] Justin Trudeau who has destroyed Canada with insane COVID mandates”.
Residents of Ottawa are furious at the nonstop blaring of horns, traffic disruption and harassment, fearing no end is in sight.
In Toronto, a couple of hundred healthcare workers and supporters marched from the University of Toronto to the legislature against the truckers’ protests. They held placards reading, “free-dumb” and “N95 masks for all”.
Trudeau, who has said the protesters represent only a “fringe minority”, earlier this week ruled out the use of troops against the truckers in the capital.
Demonstrators against COVID measures also gathered in Quebec City, Fredericton, and Winnipeg, with rallies planned for Regina, Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria and the US border crossing in Coutts, Alberta province.
Police forces in those cities say they have learned lessons from Ottawa’s predicament and have developed strategies designed to protect key infrastructures, such as vital traffic corridors and hospitals, and also to prevent possible violence.
Some protesters set fireworks on the grounds of the National War Memorial late on Friday, drawing outrage from many Canadians.