On Monday evening, a demonstrator called out, “Hochelaga under attack. What do we do?” and was met with the reply. “Stand up, fight back.” Around 200 demonstrators gathered at Préfontaine metro station at 6 p.m. to protest the eviction of the Moreau Lofts residents on September 6, in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve area, and act against gentrification in the neighbourhood.
“There’s one thing in your life you care about, and that gets taken away. That’s what gentrification is for you,” said Guillaume Vallée-Rémillard, a squatter who was living at the occupation at Ontario east and Moreau for six days before the 6 a.m. eviction a few days ago.
According to La Presse, on September 3, due to the negligence of the owner of 2019 Moreau, Vito Papasodaro, the City of Montreal told the artists and other residents of the Lofts to leave their homes after they were declared uninhabitable by city inspectors. In an interview with La Presse a few weeks earlier, Papasodaro said that he planned to renovate the Lofts after the eviction, but admitted that this would likely mean raising the rent.
The loft space was the site of short film La Maison des rêves in 1998, and has been an art space and workplace for many decades.
The residents began occupy the empty lot next to the Lofts, living under tarps, to protest what they felt was the ongoing gentrification project in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve – more commonly called HoMa. There was a community kitchen, daily general assemblies, and live music every night.
Now, the former squatters find community and shelter with their friends that pay rent, living on couches or the street.
“We need to change the peoples’ minds,” said Vallée-Rémillard, who believes that gentrification and rent increases do not have be inevitable.
“You put some nice coffee shop where a small coffee costs three dollars, where it use to cost only one dollar. And you put a restaurant which used to be a little potato shop on the corner where it was $15 for a good lunch, and now you have a steakhouse,” he added.
The march took off from the station at 6:30 p.m. and took a route around the HoMa area, culminating in an empty parking lot beside an empty building, which demonstrators announced was going to be the new location of the Moreau Lofts occupation.
According to an unnamed demonstrator, the lot had not received an eviction notice and so the demonstrators could legally live there.
The police advanced on the demonstrators several times – prompting chanting from the group – but did not directly confront the group. No arrests were made. The demonstrators eventually left the lot and headed south on Moreau toward the Préfontaine metro station, where the demonstration was declared illegal.
“Every demonstration is a step for the struggle,” said Vallée-Rémillard, adding that this will not be the last action against gentrification and in solidarity with the former residents of Moreau Lofts.