by Simon Van VlietMembers of the hacktivist collective Anonymous and a project they started last year, dubbed #OpSafeWinterMTL, have launched new protests in reaction to the dismantling of a homeless camp at Viger Square in downtown Montreal. The group has executed one distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against the Service de police de la ville de Montréal (SPVM) and a short-lived occupation of the square. Anonymous is calling for a permanent moratorium on winter raids on homeless encampments.
On January 7, without warning and in the middle of a cold streak—as temperatures dropped well under -30C overnight—city crews bulldozed the encampment, while SPVM officers stood by and watched.
Last week, in an interview with the CBC, Montreal police spokesman Laurent Gingras argued that it’s a matter “of cleanliness, of public health,” saying that the City had mostly collected garbage and soiled needles.
“There was some good stuff in there,” said Jacques, 49, who returned to Viger Square on Monday after camping at the site for about three months. CBC’s footage from the dismantlement clearly shows bulldozers piling up mattresses, blankets, pillows and sleeping bags.
“This is all they have,” an Anonymous activist told VICE, outraged at how the City of Montreal destroyed and confiscated all their belongings–including winter gear provided by Op Safe Winter Montreal activists on December 23.
“This has nothing to do with public health, it has to do with aesthetics,” she said. “What’s actually a hazard is still on the floor,” she added, pointing out that used syringes were still lying around in a corner of the destroyed encampment site.
In reality, the bulldozing of the camp and the removing of the homeless population might have less to do with public safety and more with social cleansing. The encampment is located in the lower downtown area, right across the street from the new Centre hospitalier universitaire de Montréal (CHUM) super-hospital construction site and half a kilometre from City Hall and the tourist-friendly Old Montreal.
Brutally removing the homeless population is nothing less than “an act of war against the poorest of the poor,” the activist told VICE.