Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info
On Monday October 31, about 75 people assembled in Hochelag’ with costumes and candy for a Halloween demonstration against gentrification. In a carnivalesque mood, the small crowd took the streets and put up graffiti on the walls of the neighbourhood. In the wake of the demo’s path, one could read: “fuck homa”, “genre = cauchemar” (gender = nightmare), “tout le monde déteste la police” (everyone hates the police), “junkies contre la gentrification” (junkies against gentrification), etc. This gave a bit of colour and life to Hochelag’, a neighbourhood which is undergoing sterilization so that, slowly but surely, all that can thrive are condos, yuppie grocery stores and high-end clothing stores.
This demo intended to overturn the dynamics of daily life, in plain view of people who live in the neighbourhood, against the cops who protect the new businesses, putting up tags that won’t be cleaned by the next day. In the time of this demo, we could live in this neighbourhood differently, in a more uncontrollable way.
The demo strolled through the streets towards Ste-Catherine, while shouting chants like “ des bonbons pour les enfants, des cailloux pour les bourgeois” (candies for children, rocks for the rich). Given it was Halloween night, the streets were lively and the demo had several positive reactions from people on the street. Cops arrived after about twenty minutes. It was around then that a crew of teens who were chilling in a park came to join the demo. They went up to the person offering them candy, looted the entire bag, and made their getaway through the alleyways. But the excitement was too much to pass up, and they didn’t wait long to reappear and continue to follow the demo.
While the first police car positioned itself in front of the demo, a person ran ahead to cover the back of the car in graffiti scribbles, which caused the police to take more distance. After turning on Davidson, people started to smash the windows of luxury cars with hammer blows. This irritated the cops, who were more aggressive from then on. That’s when the first rock was thrown, followed by joyous shouts from the crew of teens. The demo busted through Davidson park, took Cuvillier and evaded the cops who were sticking close behind.
As soon as the demo got to Ontario, a group of people ran back to attack the police car with a dozen rocks. However, this caused the police to react by charging this small group with the car, rather than retreating from the attack, as one might expect. The cops could have easily ran over someone at that moment. We think that putting barricades between cop cars and projectile throwers could make these types of situations safer for us in the future. This could involve dumpsters on wheels that can move with the demo, or cars bumped into the street. Another thing to consider is that rocks can break through the side-windows of a car, but not the front windshield: so, if we’re aiming at the later, the cops inside are less likely to feel threatened and retreat. On top of that, people quickly exhausted their projectile reserves. The charging cop car sounded the dispersal: people fled through alleyways and adjacent streets.
We thought this demo was interesting for several reasons.
First off, we believe that it’s interesting to take advantage of Halloween to have a demo, because it’s possible to be masked in the street without looking suspicious. On this night of the year, everyone in the streets looks more or less sketchy, which facilitates the dispersal of the demo.
We were also into the emphasis that this demo placed on counter-information in the neighbourhood, with graffiti and posters, on streets like Ste-Catherine which are normally too patrolled by cops for people to dare put up graff. It’s powerful to be able to mark the walls of the neighbourhood without having to hide in the shadows of alleyways.
It was also interesting that this was a neighbourhood demo, compared to downtown demos with hostile routes walked a thousand times over, and where police repression is stronger and often makes us hesitate to act. Having a demo in a neighbourhood where we live and our friends live resonates with our resistance in this space.