Montreal police threaten to fine, arrest activists at homeless camp protest

"People in the streets are criminalized," says Léandre, the organizer of the encampment protesting Montreal's housing crisis. On Friday, the City of Montreal ordered the encampment be removed. It had been set up since July 1st. Swidda Rassy reports

Another Montreal encampment looks to be coming down, this one focused on the homeless community.

The encampment set up in Parc-des-Faubourgs in Montreal on July 1 is to protest the city’s policy on dismantling homeless encampments.

BACKGROUND: Montreal encampment protests against dismantling homeless camps

On Friday, it was ordered to come down; Montreal police were on standby and said if protesters didn’t leave, they could be arrested or fined.

“People in the streets are criminalized every day because they occupy the public space,” said Léandre, who organized the encampment.

Friday morning, Montreal police made their presence known. Several cop cars and a drone hovered above the encampment. Nearby, blue collar workers waited to clean up.

Many were not happy.

“We’re not doing nothing wrong,” said Sarah Ethier, who stayed at the encampment.

“Everyone, including the police, told us that they understand what we’re doing and that it makes sense, but they are just following orders. So yes, I’m ready to get arrested for this,” said homeless advocate Anick Desrosiers.

“The City of Montreal dismantling an encampment against encampments. It’s absurd, it’s nonsense,” said Léandre.

“Some of us have the privilege to have a house,” added Desrosiers. “A lot of us are workers in homelessness, so it’s something that we care a lot about. And we think it’s important for us to stay and to continue to reclaim to the city what we are asking for.”

Earlier in the day, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante held a press conference about the dismantlement of the pro-Palestinian encampment at Square Victoria, but responded to a question on this encampment, saying she agrees the city needs more housing, but occupying a public space for several days is not the way to go.

“You can do it while walking, occupying the park for a few hours, but to occupy permanently the park is not something… it goes against the bylaws,” said Plante.

Many unhoused individuals were advised by advocates at the encampment to leave the area to avoid being arrested or fined. Many left. Ethier did not.

“I’m going with them. Wherever they go, I’m going. I don’t care. I have nowhere to go. I don’t want to get arrested, but I have nowhere,” said Ethier.

At around 3:30 p.m., police started the dismantling process. And as of 4 p.m., Montreal police confirmed no one had been arrested. 

However, as tents are coming down, the fight for housing continues.

“While there’s a house crisis, when the shelters are not offering all the services that need to be offered anyway, they are full, we have no other option than having to accept that some people will shelter themselves in the public space,” said Desrosiers.

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