Montreal mayor calls destructive protests against COVID-19 curfew ‘stupid’, Report

Montreal mayor calls destructive protests against COVID-19 curfew 'stupid', Report
Montreal mayor calls destructive protests against COVID-19 curfew 'stupid', Report

The front window of Frank Passa’s Old Montreal restaurant, Quattro, is covered with a piece of plywood, broken after an anti-curfew protest turned violent on Sunday night.

While some of his neighbours had their windows repaired on Monday morning, Passa said he plans to wait until the end of the week in case it happens again.

“There’s supposed to be another riot, another protest tonight,” he said in an interview outside the restaurant. “We’re not open, so what’s the use, I don’t want to pay twice.”

After hundreds of people gathered Sunday in the city’s historic district to protest the provincial government’s decision to advance the curfew to 8 p.m., some protesters led a destructive trail through the neighbourhood, breaking store windows and lighting garbage on fire.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante condemned the violence Monday, telling reporters what happened was “not acceptable” and describing the vandalism as “ridiculous” and “stupid.”

“People are allowed to protest,” she said. “It is their right, but do it right. Don’t attack people that are already suffering, that are dealing with COVID just like they are.”

For business owners in the targeted area, the pandemic has already been a challenge, and now they have to pay for repairs.

“The office buildings are empty, there’s no tourists, there’s no Grand Prix, there’s no jazz festival, there’s nobody,” Passa said. “So already we’re losing 95 per cent of the sales, then you have to spend another $2,000(on repairs.)”

He said he doesn’t understand the motivation of the vandals. “Because of the curfew, they did a protest and they smashed all the windows on the street. It won’t help them,” he said.

Isabelle Kapsaskis, one of the members of L’empreinte cooperative, which runs a gift shop in the Old Port, said her store was fortunate.While the outer window was broken, there was no damage inside. Still, she said, the cooperative will have to pay for repairs.

“I’m mad. I’m really sad too,” she said about the vandalism. “I know that they’re tired, we’re all tired. About the situation, we’re all angry, but I think you can pass a message that you’re angry, you’re tired, but not this way.”

She said she hopes that organizers of any future anti-curfew protests will discourage vandalism, but she worries it will happen again.

A police spokesman said Monday that seven arrests were made following the damage Sunday night, though there was no immediate word on charges. He said 107 tickets were issued for public health violations.

The 8 p.m. curfew came into effect Sunday night in Montreal and its northern suburb of Laval. Premier Francois Legault said he was moving the curfew ahead from 9:30 p.m. as a precaution because of the rise of novel coronavirus variants of concern. Quebec City and a few other cities in the province are also under an 8 p.m. curfew.

Residents in those regions who leave their homes between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. without an approved reason could face fines of over $1,000.

On Sunday, a mostly young crowd danced to music from loudspeakers while lighting fireworks and chanting, “freedom for the young,” before the festive atmosphere quickly degenerated. Police fired tear gas and rushed the crowd, prompting dozens of protesters to scatter and cause mayhem down the cobblestone streets.

Plante defended the Montreal police response, saying they were present from the beginning of the gathering. The vandalism lasted about two hours.

“There’s always a kind of balance to find, because sometimes when police officers act too fast, it can put oil on the fire,” Plante said.

Montreal police say they are still investigating possible incidents of mischief, arson, breaking and entering, and obstruction of police.

Quebec’s public security minister also called Sunday night’s vandalism unacceptable.

“Outbursts like those of last night in Old Montreal cannot be tolerated,” Genevieve Guilbault said on Twitter. “We have the right to express our disagreements, but we must do so with the greatest respect for the health rules in force.”

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