Participants of the People’s Convoy, inspired by the Freedom Convoy that rocked Canada’s capital region for nearly three weeks earlier this year, are starting to ask questions regarding where exactly donations, totaling more than $1.8 million, went to.
The People’s Convoy, which at its peak involved about 50 transport trucks and hundreds of other supporters driving personal vehicles, declared “victory” on May 20 when the convoy had dwindled to just 15 tractor-trailers and around 40 passenger vehicles and RVs.
Kris Young, an administrator of the convoy’s multiple social media accounts wrote on May 20, “The People’s Convoy declares victory and announces its conclusion of the national convoy portion of this great movement. Any convoy and protest activity from this time forward is done on an individual basis and is not representing The People’s Convoy.”
Clarissa Hawes, who broke the story and writes for Freightwaves said, “More than $1.8 million was collected through the convoy’s fundraising platform, the American Foundation for Civil Liberties and Freedoms (AFCLF).”
Now, organizers of the convoy and the AFCLF are both calling for an independent audit to review where the $1.8 million in donations, that was collected over three months, actually went.
The founder of AFCLF, Christopher Marston, told Freightwaves that an official audit is underway however when asked who was completing the audit Marston said he didn’t “have the name [of the firm] on the tip of his tongue,” and directed Freightwaves to contact his organizations Executive Director, Pamela Milacek, who he says is in charge of hiring the accounting firm that is conducting the audit.
Sketchy leadership at AFCLF
According to Freightwaves, Milacek, “has active warrants out for her arrest for probation violations related to her pleading guilty through deferred adjudication in two cases involving fraud and exploitation of an elderly person. According to Mathew Hawkins, the criminal deputy district for the Collin County District Clerk’s Office in Texas, Milacek is still in the lam.”
A deferred adjudication is a judge-ordered probation that permits an offender to accept responsibility for their crime without an actual conviction being placed on their record.
Marston is claiming that the convoy organizers failed to report cash and gift cards collected to his official fundraising group saying, “That’s exactly why a nonprofit with financial controls is needed.”
Currently, no charges have been laid against either the organizers of the People’s Convoy or the AFCLF.
Original organizer speaks up
Brian Brase, one of the original organizers of the convoy who was removed from the group after he left the convoy after a month on the road to see his family, is also calling for an independent audit and is even offering to pay for it if that is what it takes to clear his name.
Brase believes that all funds have been accounted for and points the finger at Marston’s group for not following through on promises to provide convoy organizers with daily updates concerning fundraising efforts and how the money was being disbursed.
“What sold us on going with AFCLF was they were going to give us a bank card for the convoy expenses and it never showed up. We had a lot of problems accessing the funds, and we never knew what the real dollar amount was,” Brase told Freightwaves.
Brase said, in order to manage cash and gift card donations, the organizers were forced to create their own ledger and used a personal lock box.
Brase was a feature figure in a convoy live stream where he is seen “passing the hat” to raise funds for volunteers of the convoy. Brase says the funds collected were handed directly to volunteers.
“The only time I was there that anything like that happened was some people were working really hard volunteering to help us that were living in their cars, hadn’t been able to shower and they were the people parking trucks and working security and in the kitchen and stuff like that, “ Brase told Freightwaves adding that, “And there was a bag that was passed around very publicly on live streamers’ feeds, and we said exactly who it was for and what it was for.”
He describes a chaotic atmosphere where supporters along the convoy’s route would show up and hand cash or Visa gift cards directly to drivers and other participants. Brase said there was no reasonable way to track these donations.
“I had people walk up to me trying to give Visa gift cards to me and say, ‘This isn’t for the convoy. This is for you personally.’ I said, ‘No thank you, give it to all the drivers,’ and there’s a lot of people in the convoy who said the same,” Brase said.
Brase didn’t drive his personal rig in the convoy but instead traveled in a command bus, and an RV, to plan the convoy’s route and manage security.
“So the bus basically had road maps and satellite images with laptops and police scanners running in case we ran into any trouble with counter protesters,” he said.
He believes the truth will come out and says he had no role in how the funds were distributed.
“After I left and they, the People’s Convoy, posted that I was no longer affiliated with the group, I don’t know what went on,” Brase told Freightwaves adding that, “I believe we were there for the right reasons in the beginning but that others wanted to profit off of us and turned this into a circus.”