Anti-gentrification campaign occupies lot in St-Henri

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Unionist
Anti-gentrification campaign occupies lot in St-Henri

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Unionist

"À qui la ville?" - "Whose Montréal is it?" - has been occupying a vacant lot in St-Henri, an iconic poor neighbourhood near downtown, since June 1. The lot belongs to Peter Sergakis, an extremely well-known businessman, landlord, lobbyist, loudmouth. The protest is against proposed commercial and residential development, and in favour of social housing. At first he said no problem, go ahead with your protest. Today, he is fed up, says neighbours are complaining, occupiers are just smoking pot all day, etc. - and he's called the cops to end the occupation.

[url=http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Owner+Henri+vacant+asks+police+evict...

Live reports on twitter at https://twitter.com/search?q=%23aquilaville&src=hash.

 

lagatta

Their video is very good. While it is entirely in the realm of possibility that a couple of joints may have been smoken or a few beers quaffed, I've attended similar occupations and they were certainly not wild parties.

It is a symbolic act; I'm sure the protesters expect to get evicted eventually - the purpose is to raise awareness for the need for more social housing in a context where almost none is being built, and even very few conventional rental apartments or flats; there is a plague of condos now, a bubble of overbuilding. Not all condo owners are "wealthy" by any means, just richer enough that they can afford the down payment, and that will create other problems as many will be unable to bear the mortgage cost if there is a significant increase in interest rates.

Calling Sergakis a loudmouth is an understatement. He is not only a strip-club owner but also a bit of a thug, who was among those breaking a huge wooden door to the City Council chambers at Montréal City Hall a couple of decades ago, and other strong-arm behaviour. He was also one of the most vocal opponents of the smoking ban in local restaurants, bars and other premises.

lagatta

I found the precise date of and reason for Sergakis' act of major vandalism, knocking down (and severely damaging) the very large, ornate wooden doors at Mtl City Hall. Hate quoting coolopolis as Kristian Gravenor is more than a bit of a pig himself, but he is accurate about obscure facts and dates, so this will help the housing activists do their research:

http://coolopolis.blogspot.ca/2010/07/you-name-sergakis.html

He gained initial public notoriety by leading a revolt against municipal hikes that saw some bills double under the Dore administration. He said that his own bills had risen by $800,000. So he knocked down the doors of city hall April 5, 1993. He didn't get much punishment for that, in fact when a blue collar union gang tried the same thing they were given much harsher sentences.

Unionist

The cops haven't made their move yet, but it seems inevitable.

Unionist

Still quiet on the south-western front, and a little sardonic dig at Peter Sergakis:

Translation: "Don't honk after 10 pm - think of the neighbours!"

 

Unionist

This morning, police arrived, blocked some road access, and seemed to be equipped with some riot gear.

About 8:00 am, they read out an eviction notice to the occupiers. There appear to have been some negotiations, but no confirmation.

As of a few minutes ago, it looks as if protesters are voluntarily dismantling their encampment.

 

Unionist

It's over, for now - but another event is being planned for June 9, a picnic I believe:

[url=http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2013/06/06/montreal-st-henr... squatters dismantle camp under threat of eviction[/url]

Quote:

Between 20 and 30 squatters dismantled their makeshift camp in St-Henri this morning as Montreal police prepared for a possible clash.

After briefly meeting to decide how to proceed, the squatters began quietly taking their tents down and removing the various political signs they had put up along the edges of their camp.

The group took over the vacant lot at the corner of St-Philippe and Notre-Dame West streets on Saturday to protest against condo development and a lack of affordable housing in St-Henri.

They argued that additional condos being built up in the neighbourhood of the Southwest borough, will make rent unaffordable for both young families and people who’ve long called St-Henri home. [...]

CBC News witnessed a couple of squatters pack up their belongings and leave the site voluntarily after spotting the police cars, though most of the others remained until the end.

ETA: Here's the next event:

lagatta

Sympa! That's in my 'hood!

It is a rainy week, but Sunday looks like the best day: http://meteo.gc.ca/city/pages/qc-147_metric_f.html

Unionist

I knew I'd get lagatta with that ad. Laughing

 

Mr_R

So Sergakis spewed venom at the site, having gone there to personally tell the squatters off. There he revealed that he opposed all social housing. He also threatened them by claiming to have their pictures, not specifying how he'd use them, though he did say this after someone asked if he'd send gangsters after people. Had one of the squatters made such a threat to Sergakis in front of the SPVM as this happened... I need not say any more.

Sergakis then told everyone how there were punks, anarchists, black blocs and red squares at the site. Indeed there were. The black blocs decked themselves out as such and guarded the site mainly after the place was put on alert following the initial threats at 4 pm on Tuesday.  The people there were also far nicer and of far higher quality than can be imagined by a thug like Sergakis. I think Sergakis and many of the cops actually would think more highly of the squatters had they resorted to violence because they respect violence. The cops certainly respect black blocs more than they respect hippies, for example.

Yes, there was beer and pot there. They voted on the matter of banning drink there and that was defeated and though I was not there for that, I think that making the place dry to appease the unappeasable... the likes of Sarkakis and reactionaries in general... was not worth it. They would have found whatever negative stuff they wanted to find. I did not notice obvious overdrinking, I did not see that stuff in any way cause disorder in the place, it was very well-run in general and they were very conscientious about getting along with the neighbours, extending so far as to send details out to clear away rubbish from the neighbourhood.

lagatta

Sergakis is a thug, and there is quite a bit of evidence that he may have ties with the underworld. You saw above his EXTREME act of vandalism and intimidation at the Montreal City Council chambers. Imagine if some trade union or community association had pulled that off. The doors he broke were worth thousands of dollars; they weren't some cheap door he'd put on one of his crappier apartments. The blue collar workers' union was heavily sanctioned for far less extreme action.

It would have been funny to have made the place dry to appease a guy who made his money owning a whole series of drinking establishments and strip clubs!

Mr_R

People found that it was quite appropriate to see the policeman hold up the megaphone for Sergakis. Oddly enough one of the protesters was right next to them...

I think Sergakis wanted to use this as an opportunity to grandstand. The people who occupied the site were practically the same people as those who were repeatedly kettled by the police during protests this spring, the people who visit the court houses to support people tried for past protest actions. Anarchopanda even went to the site.  As the Silent Majority's self-appointed representatives love to show their right wing populist credentials by using these people as foils, I expected no less from Sergakis. After all, there is nothing worse for an anti-intellectual like Sergakis then a place where people read Camus.

 After the initial Sergakis threat the decision was made to lighten up the camp to permit a quicker exit but some expressed a desire to see them smash something, so they got people who knew about carpentry to bang together a large piece of art out of discarded wood which turned into some kind of dragon (after earlier looking like a shrine to Anarchopanda) and with very good painting... and flowers pots hanging from it. The squatters built receptacles to be used for gardening, and were planting in these receptacles.  It was quite impressive what they were able to do. The food from the Cuisine du Peuple was not as good as what I had seen in the past but I guess there is only so much that can be done. It was very much an occupy camp set up there.

Unionist

Hey Mr_R, thanks so much for the first-hand impressions!

 

Mr_R

There have been suggestions that Sergakis was initially sympathetic but changed his mind. I do not believe this for a second. He played the "I am reasonable" card tactically by not demanding their immediate expulsion, so that the protesters could "have enough rope" as far as his standards of the Silent Majority are concerned, rope that in fact already existed, so that he could have public opinion blame the squatters for their evictions. Also, one of the first things he said was that the city would have to pay him double the land's value for it... that is hardly very friendly. Then he said he would consider building low-cost housing himself only if the government paid him a heavy subsidy. I do not think he is a babe in the woods, he knew what kind of people were running the camp, he knew that all along, he planned to play the whole thing the way he did. This is a man after all who declared war on the homeless last August. His whole tone suggests a right wing populism not unlike Poujadism, the same kind of schtick that is familiar to those in Toronto subject to Rob Ford.

The real Sergakis came out yesterday morning... I think that from the protesters' perspective this is a payoff too, though I suppose it is yet more polarisation and one side has most of the media with it.

Mr_R

This is a photo essay... astounding. The person in question expressed a desire to leave the site at 12:30 am before the eviction, but gave up thinking there were no more metros.  I knew there were, but I did not insist. Well, here we have an astounding document, and her photography is so incredible, it brings tears to my eyes.

https://www.facebook.com/changeisinthewind/media_set?set=a.1015171209030...

Daniel Theoret is mentioned here, he is responsible for a brutal attack on an older man on 18 August 2012 at the corner of St-Dominique and Ste-Catherine. Naturally, the victim was accused of assault on a police officer. Never forget that. Simoneau was also there, a reprehensible lying weasel of a man.

 

lagatta

I do wish essays like that weren't behind the Facebook wall.

Mr_R

From the Gazette's YouTube report...

SERGAKIS - I didn't know this thing was going to finish like that, and it's costing a lot of money to the city and I hope these people, you know we have to, the authorities, they have to take care of these people, the ones who trouble it's the same people that's creating these trouble downtown and merchants are complaining, demonstrations and people... damage to property, I mean you know how many police are working.

REPORTER - Do you have any sympathy for their cause Peter?

SERGAKIS - I have nothing, no sympathy, zero. They're punks, they're anarchists, they're from the Black Bloc, nobody works, the way I look at society is if you're healthy, work, if you're not healthy we're going to take care of you, that's how I look at it. I don't want the young people doing nothing, living off the system, I don't want that.

SERGAKIS - If you step in here I'll take you out.

And from La Presse...

SERGAKIS - J'ai pris ta photo, toi! 

DEMONSTRATOR - Vous allez envoyer vos Hells pour peter la gueule?

SERGAKIS - Comment?

DEMONSTRATOR - Vous allez envoyer vos...

SERGAKIS - J'ai pris la tienne aussi!

 

lagatta

After his beating down the huge oak doors at Mtl City Hall, he has a hell of a lot of nerve talking about damage to property. Today, on Radio-Canada, there was a story about him whining about how bar owners "need the Grand Prix" (aka GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE)!!!!

Remember that this guy spearheaded the struggle against the smoking ban in restaurants and bars here...

Mr_R

To threaten to "take someone out" is gangland parlance for a "hit"... this is a death threat. He also said he had people's pictures, spoke also of "taking care" of people who in his opinion were causing "trouble".  Sergakis threatened to kill people under the noses of the police that as usual did nothing, the same police that had a demonstrator arrested and put on trial for death threats because she POINTED at one of them!

lagatta

Yes, "take someone out" is also used that way in the military, but I think it was first a gangster expression. When I was teaching ESL, we had a lot of fun with "phrasal verbs" the many combinations of a verb and one or two prepositions in English (and other Germanic languages).

Mr_R

I supposed the person could have said, as soon as he said "take you out", added, "for dinner"? The people in question are francophones and I don't know if they realised what he had said. I also was disturbed by his call that the regular protesters be "taken care of", for the good of the city and the merchants. When you factor in his war on the homeless and his clear pro-social cleansing attitudes of the sort that have led to hundreds of murders in South Amerca, it has an ominous ring to it... I wonder if someone should make a criminal complaint or something against him.

lagatta

Yes, take out to dinner and take food out (or away) are far more common uses of that phrasal verb, and it also means "delete" in a far less ominous sense - take that paragraph out when you are revising the article (I'm currently revising something for a client). Most francophones would NOT know the most threatening use of the term "take out". Since I was teaching adults, I even taught them some of the phrasal verbs with fuck and piss.

Yes, given his past, I do think one should at least contemplate legal action, or PUBLICIZE his threats. This is a person who has committed (Gasp!) serious property crimes against the State!

Mr_R

Sergakis, casseur!
Sergakis, casseur!