Anti-maskers may not want to help the community stop the spread of COVID-19, but they are quick to ask their community for help in fighting fines and arrests related to their conspiracy-laden protests. Now, after a few fundraisers crowdfunded immense amounts of money leading to a number of copycat requests, some in the anti-lockdown movement think they are being taken advantage of.
Canada is dealing with a second, deadlier, wave of COVID-19 and some municipalities are stepping up their actions against the anti-mask movement, which has been holding public rallies for months. Predictably, as the number of fines, charges, and arrests went up, so did the amount of GoFundMe and Facebook posts asking for donations.
Canada currently has almost 75,000 active cases in the country and over 18,000 people have died since the start of the pandemic. Last weekend alone, Toronto police say they handed out at least 18 fail-to-comply charges, police in Hamilton, Ontario, handed out 16 tickets to 13 people, and the small Manitoba town of Steinbach handed out 10 fines and expects to hand out more.
One of the more well-known anti-lockdown activists to get arrested was Kelly Anne Farkus (known in the movement by her nom de guerre of Kelly Anne Wolfe). Farkus was arrested and charged with common nuisance at last weekend's Toronto rally. Almost immediately following her arrest a GoFundMe went up.
“Let’s at least kick in $100, $75, $50 or whatever you can afford to help Kelly fight this fight for us and bring down the mass corruption,” said the GoFundMe page. “Hold these Gestapo and police state commies, and corrupt politicians and our lieutenant governor liable for crimes against humanity. Donate now.”
Fundraisers from the influencers in these movements are nothing new. The GoFundMe fundraisers for anti-lockdown BBQ owner Adam Skelly raised over $337,768 for legal fees in the fall after he became an overnight sensation when he refused to close the in-person dining section of his restaurant. Earlier in the year, right-wing conspiracist Norman Traversy raised over $150,000 after declaring he would charge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a litany of charges (Trudeau remains uncharged).
Frakus has raised only $2,100 of a $100,000 goal at the time of reporting. In a video filmed shortly after being released from police custody, Frakus, sitting in a party bus parked in front of the police station next to a man wearing a full-length fur coat and cowboy hat, echoed the call of the fundraiser and said her arrest was the “first step of the end of communism in this country.” Frakus said she’ll use the donations to take Toronto police, Toronto Mayor John Tory, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford “to international court.” (Nobody has been taken to international court as of press time.)
Another leader of the anti-lockdown movement, Lamont Daigle, was arrested alongside Wolfe and is raising cash. Instead of taking funds from GoFundMe where he would have to show proof of the amount raised, Daigle is raising money via e-transfers, but has received little to no traction.
Tony, an anti-fascist researcher who follows the anti-lockdown closely but did not want his last name used due to fear of reprisal from that community, told VICE World News that Wolfe’s GoFundMe raised some eyebrows in the anti-mask community.
“I think the people are starting to realize after what happened with Skelly BBQ and all the media attention that came out of that… people found out he's from a wealthy family, and he got all this money and in the end he just took it,” said Tony. “They’re looking at Kelly Anne a little sideways and not wanting to jump right on board with that.”
In some private anti-mask groups, the ask is being openly derided. Some anti-maskers even accused her of intentionally getting arrested so she could start the fundraiser.
“I'm curious to know why we’ve chosen to go the route of asking for donations to cover legal fees the instant a charge or fine is given?” wrote one anti-masker on Facebook. “All along we’ve been preaching that all of these COVID-related fines or charges are basically meaningless and will never hold up in court.”
“I think somebody’s getting a lot of free money,” wrote another. “Overall...I have donated more than $350.”
Drew—another researcher who follows the anti-mask movement in Canada immensely closely, writes a newsletter about it, and also doesn’t want his last name used—told VICE World News the fundraisers may be a sign the leaders of the movement are starting to feel the heat.
“I think they suddenly realized how serious things are now that they had to spend an evening in jail and as their court dates for past fines approach,” he said. “They had been collecting weekly fines since December but were confident they either would not make it to court citing what they believe to be Charter violations, or would succeed using sovereign citizen pseudo-legal arguments. Now all of a sudden they need legal fees?”
Skelly, Frakus, and Daigle aren't alone in hitting up the anti-maskers for cash. Anti-masker Chris Saccoccia routinely hits up his followers for donations in schemes such as an anti-mask private school system or a war chest to protect local businesses. But while the independently wealthy Saccocia can rally his troops to give some of their money away, it’s a pittance compared to what Skelly had raised.
Now even unknown members of the anti-mask group are getting in on the action. A man named Brian Tremblay started a GoFundMe after being arrested at an Ontario No Frills grocery store.
“Brian along with many other Canadian citizens are being harassed and assaulted by police officers who take the law into their own hands. They need to be stopped,” he wrote in his $10,000 GoFundMe. “Only way to do it is fight. A good lawyer can bring down a bad officer in the court of law. Unfortunately a good lawyer isn't easy to get especially without a lot of money. This is where we need YOUR help. This is OUR lives at risk and OUR freedoms.”
The man arrested at the No Frills has received only $100 as of the publication of this story.
Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.