After over five weeks of protest, the Occupy Montreal movement in Square Victoria – which occupiers had renamed Place du Peuple – has ended, as the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) moved in early Friday morning to dismantle the remaining tents. While no arrests were made, 16 protestors were escorted out of the park after tying themselves to the onsite kitchen tent.
Signals that the occupation was ending came earlier in the week, as the City of Montreal changed its attitude towards the movement. City spokesperson Gonzalo Nunez issued a statement last Wednesday night saying that “the period of tolerance is over.” Protestors were then given warnings by the City instructing them to remove all “installations” from the square, and prohibiting them from occupying the square from midnight to 6 a.m., citing various city bylaws.
While some protestors seemed confused about what exactly was going to happen, most planned on cooperating.
“We are leaving this place on good terms,” said Greg Adams, a protestor who was still living on site as of early Friday morning. “We have our heads held high, a song on our lips and joy in our heart.”
At 9 a.m. Friday morning, crowds of police officers stopped traffic and cordoned off the area surrounding the park. They proceeded to dismantle the remaining tents, despite jeering and chants of protestors. City workers gathered the remains of the site, and material that was deemed reusable was put into storage, from which people could retrieve their belongings starting next Tuesday.
The atmosphere of the eviction remained largely peaceful, as the only major altercation between police and protestors occurred when a group, codenamed “Steve,” peacefully tied themselves to the on-site kitchen tent and refused to leave. “Steve,” along with dozens of occupiers who stood outside of the police line, chanted various protest slogans, the most popular being “We are the 99 per cent. You are the 99 per cent.”
The group was cut loose from the tent and escorted off the premises by police officers, who had the square completely cleared by noon.
When asked how he felt about relations with the police officers, one anonymous protestor, who had been living in the camp for the past four weeks, replied, “I only got one hug, so I’m a little disappointed, but not dismayed.”
SPVM Sergeant Laurent Gingras said in French that the operation went well. “There was a good collaboration between the people and police and they didn’t have to resort to force,” he said.
Despite eviction, protestors seemed to agree that the movement is far from over.
“The occupation is symbolic,” said protestor Pierluc Benson as he packed up his tent. “This is just the physical part of the movement. The mental and spiritual part is still there.”
Occupiers planned to hold a protest last Saturday afternoon, where they would discuss the future of the movement.