‘I regret going’: Protester says he spent all his savings to support ‘Freedom Convoy’

A protester who joined the so-called Freedom Convoy, which occupied downtown Ottawa for much of February, says he regrets taking part after losing $13,000 and his home to protest something he has never really “taken a stand” on.

“I regret going there,” said Martin Joseph Anglehart, who spoke to CBC via Zoom from Hope, B.C.

Anglehart said he had “nothing left” after spending all of his life savings on gas and food for the occupiers, which disrupted downtown Ottawa for more than three weeks.

“I started delivering fuel and picking up laundry. Everything for truckers.”

From January 28 to February 14, bank statements provided to CBC show Anglehart transferred thousands of dollars and spent thousands more at a petrol station near Coventry Road – where he was stationed for the majority of the protest .

Anglehart is currently living off his SUV, as he said his owner kicked him out for his “view” on the protest.

Martin Joseph Anglehart speaks to CBC via Zoom from inside his SUV, which he says is his current home. (Radio-Canada News)

“Never had a position on the mandates”

Anglehart said he couldn’t access his account because it remained locked. More than 250 accounts linked to people and businesses involved in convoy protests have been frozen after the Emergency Measures Act was invoked.

Millions of dollars have been donated through online fundraisers, but Anglehart said he’s never seen a dime.

Anglehart admits he never had a ‘position on warrants’ but felt drawn to the movement after he was prevented from visiting a dying friend in a Montreal hospital in June 2020 due to related restrictions to COVID-19.

After hearing about the convoy to Ottawa, he closed his web development business in January and left his home in Fort McKay, Alberta.

“[We] merged with a convoy around Medicine Hat,” Anglehart said, “I thought [it] was a cause bigger than me. And I thought…it was worth going.”

Bank statements provided to CBC show thousands of dollars sent via wire transfer and thousands more spent at truck stops. (Martin Joseph Anglehart)

Illegal occupancy

On February 11, Ontario Premier Doug Ford called the protest an “illegal occupation.”

Four days later, Anglehart said he was arrested for delivering fuel to truckers. He was quickly released on the condition that he leave Ottawa immediately.

Anglehart’s Dodge Caravan was also seized. It remains confiscated and Anglehart says he can’t afford the cost to get it back.

As feelings of regret take over, there are also feelings of contrition.

“I would like to apologize to [the] people in Ottawa,” Anglehart said. “I’m sorry… All I wanted was to help people.

Anglehart said he was arrested Feb. 15 for delivering fuel to truckers. He said the police gave him this violation notice and he was told to leave Ottawa. (Martin Joseph Anglehart)

“Participation cost”

Upon hearing Anglehart’s story, Joao Velloso, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, said he was not surprised.

Velloso conducted his field research in Ottawa throughout the occupation. He examined the anthropological and sociological aspect of the protest.

“You can have people who [were] looking for a sense of community,” Velloso said. “Everyone was tired of the pandemic… And you are seeing people for the first time in two years… I can totally relate to that.

But there is a cost, he warned.

A screenshot of text messages shows Anglehart’s refund request. (Martin Joseph Anglehart)

“We’re not talking about people with a lot of resources,” he said, “They have their trucks, they have funds… [but] the vast majority of protesters…[were] middle class, sometimes small middle class. »

Velloso also highlights the $300 million class action lawsuit against protesters launched by downtown Ottawa residents and businesses.

He said it could bankrupt the people named in the lawsuit. When it comes to all the donations, it’s hard to know where all the money went, Velloso said.

“Not everyone in attendance received the money some organizers received,” he said. “We have no idea if there was any dark money to this in the sense that other funding sources we don’t know about.”