The buzz has become impossible to escape. Business associations speak of “renewal”, while expensive restaurants celebrate “revitalization” and local politicians promote “redevelopment” as the city gives large grants to Toronto entrepreneurs to set up shop in town. This is all accompanied by a media blitz presenting Hamilton as a land of opportunity for the rich. With every passing day the meaning of these words becomes painfully obvious – in practice they really just mean increased misery, hardship, and displacement. Real estate agents, property management firms, investors, and business owners amongst others, reap huge profits as many of us who have called Hamilton home struggle to get by in the changing city. This is a fundamental reality of capitalism and is not surprising. What is surprising, is that those who celebrate and profit off gentrification continue to do so openly without regularly feeling the anger of those who their narrow self-interest harms.
This summer, we took a few small actions to remind the profiteers and boosters of gentrification that their presence in our neighbourhoods is unwelcome. Between June and August 2017, we carried out a series of simple attacks against businesses and entities that seek that seek to attract rich people and investors, encouraging the kinds of rapid rent increases that have already displaced thousands of people.
With these actions, we remind ourselves that we’re not powerless and that those who profit off our worsening living conditions, even with all their access and power, are still within reach. We don’t pretend these attacks will stop gentrification in themselves, but we can at least refuse to greet these profiteers with smiles and break the illusion that what’s good for investors is good for all of us. These attacks are easy to do and the list below is just a few that we can claim, but every day we walk around the city and see manifestations of hostility towards both the established local rich and the vultures who have recently descended. It makes us happy to know other people we’ve never met feel the way we do and by sharing this account we hope to encourage others to turn their anger into offensive action.
Windows were broken at The Butcher and the Vegan and at The Heather, two restaurants on Barton seeking to attract a rich clientele to one of the city’s poorest neighbourhoods. Where so many of us are on social assistance getting $600 a month, it’s an insult that the creep at The Heather gets tens of thousands of dollars from the city to sell a single meal for $70. We don’t care how artisanal your butter is.
The locks were glued and the facades vandalized with paint at the offices of Co-Motion, the branch of Marsales Realty in Westdale, and of the Acclamation condo development on James St. The latter two feel self-explanatory, but Co-Motion deserves a bit more attention. Founded by a prominent local capitalist and slumlord, Co-Motion seeks to attract entrepreneurs and investors to participate in the current redevelopment feeding frenzy. They mask their greed with talk of community and creativity, but their purpose is to recruit for and intensify the processes of gentrification in the city.
The security cameras on Hendry’s shoes on Barton St. were vandalized and tags reading “no handouts for yuppies” were left on the windows. The people who are redeveloping that building with funding from the city brag to their potential clients about how the neighbourhood is up-and-coming and gentrifying. This is essentially saying that there are poor people there now, but don’t worry, they’ll be gone soon and opportunities to make money abound. A large tag reading “Condos are War, Defend the Block” was also left on the front of the former Gibson school on Barton. The people in the neighbourhood fought to keep their school open only to now see it turned into condos that few could ever dream of affording.
It’s easy to attack when you give yourself the means. There’s still a month of summer ahead and no shortage of deserving targets.
And solidarity to those in Montreal who have been developing a practice of attack against gentrifiers over the past few years!