English political activist and independent journalist, Tommy Robinson, received $26,000 worth of bitcoin (3.44 BTC), according to the online tabloid, Daily Star. “A high-profile campaign calling for Tommy Robinson to be freed from jail has received support on a global scale in the form of celebrities, politicians and Bitcoin donations worth thousands of pounds,” they reported this week upon Mr. Robinson’s release from jail.
Mr. Robinson was being held, according to government authorities, for violating a previous contempt of court order related to his work as an activist and journalist. Apparently, two months ago in the course of documenting a story of similar import (usually involving Muslims in England accused of violent sex crimes), Mr. Robinson violated previous terms and was arrested on site and jailed.
This week, another court found fault with his arrest and detainment, and released Mr. Robinson. “An international campaign demanding his release,” Daily Star continued, “called ‘Free Tommy Robinson’, quickly gained momentum among his fans and right-wing political figures since he was jailed on May 25. Robinson since has been sent almost £20,000 worth of Bitcoin – a cryptocurrency with no central bank used for online transactions. A payment of £5,500 was transferred to his Bitcoin wallet on the day he was jailed.”
The Currency of Dissent is Decentralized
Regardless of Mr. Robinson’s politics, some have argued, the United Kingdom’s crackdown on press freedoms and speech has become worrisome. Still others believe Tommy Robinson is backed by deep pockets internationally, and is being played up as a martyr. He “has received a groundswell of support since he was jailed. He received most of the payments in the week after he was imprisoned as fury over the perceived injustice of his conviction drew attention from across the world,” the Daily Star noted.
Cryptocurrency’s entrance into such a fight is illustrative once again of its utility. Bitcoin, though not anonymous and actually quite traceable (if certain parameters are known), can be harder to track at first glance. There are also no middle payment services to cut off wired funds in the traditional sense. Those who would rather not broadcast their support because they fear the wrath of government can help any given cause with just a few clicks. The receiver can then either hold onto the digital assets, spend them, or some combination.
When payment gatekeepers such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Paypal all blocked Wikileaks, a group out of favor with most governments around the world, for example, bitcoin and other cryptos were employed. And, as the value of digital currencies donated to Wikileaks increased in value, it was actually a much more financially viable alternative. The same happened recently during the Spanish Catalonia uprisings, where banks pulled out and retreated to support the federal government and monarchy. Using crypto allowed dissidents to continue their work. No word on what Mr. Robinson’s plans are post release.