St-Henri vandalism: Cause for concern?

WATCH: Some say a recent rash of vandalism incidents in St-Henri is a backlash to the rapid gentrification happening in the borough. Global’s Eric Cohen reports on growing fears that some St-Henri residents are becoming violent in their resistance to change.

MONTREAL – In a brazen attempt to vandalize several businesses at around midnight on Saturday, a group of individuals wearing ski masks broke the windows of four businesses located on Notre-Dame Street in St-Henri.

Dressed all in black, the vandals damaged storefronts as seen in a security video obtained by Global News.

The damage to Jesse Bowden’s shop, Campanelli, was just shy of $8000 in glass alone.

“We’ve never seen or witnessed a group like this, at this time, with so many witnesses, with weapons running en masse in the middle of the street, this isn’t a war zone” says the concerned business owner.

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There is speculation that this is a result of growing anti-gentrification sentiment from some people in the community.

According to another local business owner, Corey Shapiro, “It’s no longer vandalism, it’s causing terror to people who live in the area.”

Two of his businesses were attacked over the weekend, businesses he says help the neighbourhood to thrive.

“We all work hard for our money” he says, “And we work hard to put money in the community, we work hard to give back to the community.”

This is not the first time attacks like this have happened in the area.

According to a barber named Thaddeus who works at Shapiro’s barbershop, “We’ve been , and the night before, there was an incident outside Juicyyy lab, so obviously there’s a bunch of people who don’t like what were doing.”

But where does the anger come from?

Bowden says “As far as the whole aspect of gentrification, in this company alone, we probably employ like 15-20 kids from this neighbourhood alone.”

He understands that there is some resistance to the gentrification, but he sees the success of local businesses as a positive thing.”I don’t think you can stop it, but if you can direct how it’s done and where it goes, I think that’s what’s important.”

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City councillor Craig Sauvé thinks if this is indeed political vandalism, that there needs to be more done at every level of government.

“We need to have all the actors at the table” he says, “People in the community, people at the city level, people at federal and provincial, and that’s how we can start to look at some of the economic issues that might be causing some of the tension we suspect is behind the vandalism.”

And hopefully that will lead to a happier community, an inclusive St-Henri. A place where according to Sauvé, people should feel good, safe, and welcome.

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