St. Henri anti-gentrification looting just 'another name for stealing,' says victim
A woman who was robbed by 30 people wearing masks while working over the weekend says she is still stressed and angry about the incident.
Eva Senecal was working at 3734, an upscale grocery store on Notre-Dame St. W in St. Henri when anti-gentrification protesters came into the store, told her not to move and looted the place.
“Part of me was pretty sure they weren't going to touch me, but another part of me was like, ‘Why would I even risk that right now? I don't even know who these people are. They don't even have enough guts to show me their eyes,’” she said.
The looters left stickers calling themselves anti-gentrification protesters and claimed they were taking from what they call a ‘rich business’ to share it with the poor people in the neighbourhood.
Senecal doesn’t believe the Robin Hood scenario.
“I think they’re weak. I think they thought they were doing something right… They thought they were working for de-gentrification, but really all they were doing was putting another name for stealing,” she said.
Gentrification is an issue in St-Henri. The borough says 4,000 households spend more than 50 per cent of their income on housing as housing values continue to rise.
“There's a really high level of anger in the neighbourhood,” said Fred Burrill, a community activist with POPIR-Comité Logement.
Burrill refuses to condemn the looting and vandalism that occurred.
“These businesses actually are taking up a very violent role in the neighbourhood of excluding people, of making people who have been living here their whole lives feel as if they are no longer welcome in their own neighbourhood,” he said.
Employee wasn't robbed, the business was. Its sad the person felt intimidated. Not more sad than gentrification tho https://t.co/K8pkSuoBAB— Fred Burrill (@fburrill) May 31, 2016
Others say they are embarrassed by what happened, including Karine Blackburn who has run Doyle Optometrist in the neighbourhood for 20 years.
She said St. Henri is improving.
“Before, I was afraid at night to walk at 9 when I was finishing, now I don't see that anymore, I see a lot of people walking around,” she said.
3734 owner Maxime Tremblay said he feels unfairly targeted, that he has a lot of products for lower-earning families and tried to employ people from the area.
“Being a target for me, it's just pretty weird. I think it just shows that those 30 people just did something to pretend they have a cause but they didn't really do their homework,” he said.
Senecal agreed, and said she shouldn’t have been the target of the attack.
“I'm from a poor neighbourhood that was gentrified,” she said. “They didn't even bother to find out what kind of person I was before they scared the crap out of me.”
She said she hopes police can find and arrest the people responsible.
Police are continuing to investigate.