Mike Schroeder is a Republican donor and activist in Sedona, Ariz. He advocates for looser gun laws and a tighter border with Mexico. COVID-19 safety restrictions, he says, are a needless “control situation.” He believes a conspiracy theory, pushed by former president Donald Trump, that hospitals are artificially inflating pandemic figures.
So when he saw an opportunity to contribute to the Canadian convoy protests against vaccination requirements, COVID rules and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mr. Schroeder kicked in US$2,500.
“My God, the things they’re doing up there,” Mr. Schroeder, the semi-retired former owner of a satellite television company, said in an interview. “Enough is enough. These guys have stood up to it, and good for them.”
Mr. Schroeder’s donation is one of roughly 100,000 to flow through GiveSendGo, a Christian crowdfunding platform that has become the main conduit for contributions to the convoy. The donation was revealed last week in a data dump by hackers who broke into the site.
While most of the money for the protests originated in Canada, donations from the U.S. were a close second, according to a Globe and Mail analysis, accounting for more than 40 per cent of the total raised.
The US$3.6-million from south of the border is just one sign of the attention the protests are getting here. And it could foreshadow the strength of efforts to bring a similar convoy to Washington, even as police cleared protesters from the streets of Ottawa this weekend and the federal government moved to freeze some demonstrators’ bank accounts.
The convoy featured hundreds of semi-trailer trucks that shut down the centre of Canada’s capital for three weeks and blockaded border crossings for days at a time, slowing international trade to a crawl. Convoy leaders called for Mr. Trudeau to be ousted and replaced by a new government that would include themselves.
While it is possible for donors to contribute under fake names, they must provide a zip code that matches their credit-card information, GiveSendGo told the Washington Post. This information, along with public-records checks and interviews with donors, helps sketch a picture of U.S. contributors.
They appear to include tech-sector entrepreneurs, small-business owners, a naturopath and government employees. Many donors left comments referencing Mr. Trump and QAnon, the sprawling conspiracy theory that the former president’s enemies are part of a Satanic cult.
The convoy’s largest single contribution, a US$90,000 cheque cut 10 days ago at the height of the border blockades, came from Thomas M. Siebel, a San Francisco-area billionaire who owns artificial-intelligence company C3.ai. He confirmed the contribution in a statement to U.S. media.
The second-largest U.S. donation, and fifth-largest overall, was recorded as coming from Ben Pogue, president of Dallas-area Pogue Construction. A crisis-communications firm representing Mr. Pogue said he did not want to comment on the US$75,000 contribution.
The third-largest sum registered in the U.S. was attributed to Travis Moore, the Idaho-based chief technology officer for a cryptocurrency company. The amount – US$17,760 – referenced 1776, the year the U.S. was founded.
In an e-mail, Mr. Moore said “communist causes” such as Black Lives Matter anti-racism protests have “caused much more damage” than the convoy. He said people should not be required to get vaccinated because COVID-19, which has killed more than 900,000 people in the United States, is not bad enough to warrant it.
“I don’t like how the government is mandating stuff, it sets a bad precedent. If this were as dangerous as Ebola or something, fine, but that isn’t the case,” he wrote.
Ben Lynch, a Seattle naturopath who gave US$5,000, told The Globe that he favours treatments such as vitamin D and ivermectin, a deworming medication typically used on horses and cattle, to deal with COVID. The overwhelming medical consensus is that ivermectin and vitamin D are unproven as COVID remedies, and ivermectin is potentially dangerous, while vaccines are safe and effective.
Mr. Lynch said he disagreed with some of the Canadian convoy’s tactics and aims.
“I supported the freedom convoy’s peaceful protest. Peaceful. To that end, blockades and overthrowing politicians isn’t part of peaceful,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Other donors, meanwhile, expressed support for the convoy’s demand that Mr. Trudeau be thrown out of office.
“What could be more democratic than peacefully working to rid the country of despotic leaders,” Randy Hansen, a Mesa, Ariz., real estate investor credited with a US$1,500 donation, wrote in an e-mail.
Some of the donations appeared to come from government employees.
One US$100 contribution was attributed to Rachel Shub. A search of public records turned up only one person by that name in the U.S., a career trade negotiator who worked on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and lives in the same zip code as the one on the credit-card that made the donation. Government websites list her as an official at the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the White House agency that handles trade deals.
Neither Ms. Shub nor USTR responded to requests for comment. After The Globe contacted her, Ms. Shub’s LinkedIn profile was changed to say that she retired from USTR this month. Subsequent to publication of this story, Ms. Shub told The Globe that she left USTR at the end of 2020.
A US$75 donation was listed as coming from Rich Paprcka, the chief operating officer of Delaware’s public transportation agency. He did not respond to a request for comment.
“The department is aware of this report containing Mr. Paprcka’s information and is addressing it internally,” C.R. McLeod, a state government spokesman, wrote in an e-mail.
Other donations listed e-mail addresses associated with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Bureau of Prisons, NASA and the Transportation Safety Authority.
The contributions are one facet of the intense attention that the convoy has elicited on the U.S. right. Some American supporters are planning a similar protest, starting northwest of Los Angeles on Wednesday and driving to Washington.
On Saturday, as police in Ottawa arrested protesters, Fox News carried the scene live. Breitbart had 13 convoy-related articles on its home page, featuring headlines such as “Police Move in to Crush Freedom Convoy” and “Canada Parliament Cancels Debate on Tyrant Trudeau Powers.”
Yvette Herrell, a Republican member of Congress from New Mexico, said she would introduce legislation to grant asylum in the U.S. to convoy members. “Justin Trudeau’s heavy-handed crackdown against peaceful protesters in Canada is not the action of a Western Democracy, but that of an authoritarian regime like Venezuela,” she wrote on Twitter.
Mr. Schroeder used similar language, describing the Prime Minister as a “little puppet dictator.” His invocation of the Emergencies Act to order tow-truck drivers to clear big rigs from Ottawa’s streets, Mr. Schroeder contended, was the act of a totalitarian regime.
“That’s North Korea or Communist China. That’s how they run it over there,” he said. “I wouldn’t even think about setting foot in Canada.”
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