Truckers who were in Ottawa protesting vaccine mandates, have had some of their bitcoin donations seized and frozen by the authorities. Is there a lesson here for future donations to those who want to protest their rights peacefully?
When Justin Trudeau’s Canadian government enacted the Emergencies Act and used it to cut protesting truckers off from the financial system, it was thought that the use of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin would help the truckers circumvent the sanctions.
Instructing the banks to just freeze and seize truckers bank accounts wasn’t a problem at all for the government, and even though crypto that isn’t on an exchange can be very difficult or impossible for governments or other large organisations to touch, some of it was seized by using extreme methods.
For example, in an article on Vice.com, it was reported that police went to the home of the fundraiser in charge of the HonkHonkHodl fund, who goes by the pseudonym “NobodyCaribou”. He says that he had already been able to distribute 14.6 bitcoin to truckers, which had a value of $630,000.
NobodyCaribou claimed that he was about to transfer around $15,000 still in the wallet to an escrow agent, but it was then that the police arrived. He was then compelled to give up the wallet and was obliged to reveal its seed phrase under the search warrant supplied by the police.
The threat of being arrested is a very real one, and so NobodyCaribou felt compelled to give up the seed phrase to the fund wallet. He said:
“I wanted to give the bitcoin to truckers. A court order was issued for the bitcoin that had not yet been distributed, so regardless of what I ‘want,’ I’m not going to break the law and get arrested,”
“Centralized coordination is fine, centralized custody is the problem,”
And he also tweeted out a separate remark:
“Note to self: never be a trusted third party again,”
In the same article, Jesse Powell, CEO of Kraken, who personally donated $43,000 to the truckers, replied to a question that asked if his exchange would be banning wallet addresses belonging to truckers.
“100% yes it has/will happen and 100% yes, we will be forced to comply. If you're worried about it, don't keep your funds with any centralized/regulated custodian. We cannot protect you. Get your coins/cash out and only trade p2p.”
It appears that Powell has hit the nail on the head. When governments go to such extremes as seizing the funds of peacefully protesting citizens, the only way to protect oneself is to keep a hardware wallet in a safe place and transact peer-to-peer.
The world has become a very unsafe and unstable place. Cryptocurrencies, and perhaps precious metals (in your own possession) appear to be the only way of storing wealth outside of a failing monetary system and governments that are becoming more and more authoritarian.
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