Montreal police are looking at video from neighbouring stores in an effort to identify the 30 mask-wearing vandals that invaded a small high-end grocery shop in the Saint Henri section of town Sunday evening.
The protesters swarmed the shop, threw smoke bombs, stole thousands of dollars worth of food, scrawled graffiti and terrified a lone female employee.
The store, 3734, on Notre Dame St. W., is a small specialty shop connected to a restaurant—a recent addition to a neighbourhood that has undergone a transformation in the last decade. Its low rents have attracted a string of hip, upscale shops and restaurants to go with urban renewal that has brought in condos and upper income consumers.
Co-owner Maxime Tremblay (pictured) said he has no intention of moving, even though it's not the first time 3734 has been vandalized. The store was previously targeted by graffiti artists and had glue inserted into its lock.
"We chose this neighbourhood and we're comfortable with the people here,'' he said. ``I think if we talk to each other, we can figure out how to live together.''
Franco Perraira, who co-owns the store with Tremblay, said they’ve ordered a panic button for the cashier and three more security cameras. He says losses totalled about $3,500 wholesale, but the fact his employee was traumatized bothers him more than the financial hit.
The vandals cited tensions between income groups in posters they left in the store that read: "With the arrival of condos in St-Henri, a multitude of expensive businesses followed…hipster restaurants and bourgeois grocery stores," read a poster. “Viva the degentrification!”
Police spokesman Jean-Pierre Brabant said there have been three similar incidents in the city, where black-clad groups have scrawled graffiti, broken windows and swarmed what they saw as gentrified areas of town.
The group of vandals told the grocery clerk she would not be harmed, did their damage, stole food items, slapped posters on the front window and ran away in different directions, police said.
“On the front of the store (they wrote) that the food they got was going to be given to people in the neighbourhood that needed it,” Brabant said.
Store owners took to Facebook to acknowledge the problems created by gentrification, saying they understood concerns but couldn’t understand why they had been targeted.
The owners of 3734 say their store is committed to local charities, and for the most part only sells locally-produced goods.
They sell a large selection of Quebec micro-brewery beer, Quebec cheese, cold meats and sausage, also locally made, hot sauces, and fresh grain-fed poultry but keeps away from extravagant items.