Tom Boland (
Thu, 4 Dec 1997 22:56:11 -0800 (PST)

=46WD  Reply to Bernard Cooper <>


The lightning action by anti-poverty activists achieves its goal, despite
mass arrests soon after.

At lunchtime Wednesday December 3, an anti-poverty and anti-hunger action
took place in a posh restaurant in downtown Montreal. Located in the Queen
Elizabeth Hotel and frequented by business people, the restaurant was
targeted for a lightning raid that was organized by the Comit=E9 des
Sans-Emplois de Montreal-centre (Committee of the unemployed of central
Montreal). The action took place at 12:20pm, after 2 school buses brought
over 110 poor activists and demonstrators in from the city's working-class
east end.

The action was supposed to be an appropriation of buffet food, where a
commando would go into the dining room and requisition platters of food to
bring to the others outside in the support demo. Food Not Bombs was on hand
to feed the activists, and they also gave out the expropriated food. The
action was pulled off with remarkably light organizing, and in 10 minutes,
a steady stream of food-filled platters were brought out into the cold
sunny streets to the cheers of those outside.

Of course the managers of the restaurant went immediately ballistic, as one
can imagine. One of them grabbed a young activist and shoved him to the
ground, but we were too many, and we swarmed in like ants to the great
surprise of the business men there. Most of them seemed stunned, and we
hope that the action has helped put some fear into these shameless men. The
atmosphere in the fancy dining room was surrealistic and charged, and we
created a situation that very effectively, very tangibly dissolved the
usual hierarchy and class isolation. We knew that the restaurant and hotel
management was unable to keep us from taking the food out, and despite an
immediate call going out to the police, we had a surprising 15 minutes to
eat and savour the action.

At 12:35 pm, the first sirens could be heard wailing across downtown, and
several vans from the tactical squad were on site. Police equipped in
full>riot gear surrounded the activists, and also seemed to have flushed
out from the inside. The hotel was sealed off for at least two more hours.
Two city blocks along a major downtown street, Ren=E9 L=E9vesque boulevard, =
also closed off. In front of the hotel, two paddy wagons could be seen, as
well as an unusually large one that looked like a converted school bus with
dark tinted windows covered in metal grilling. Apparently, the pigs were
not sure of how many people they were going to arrest, since they also had
a public transit bus on hand if necessary. (This practice, of allowing the
cops to use public transit equipment for repression, is disgusting. What
usiness does a civilian social service like public transit have with
helping the cops do their dirty business?)

The police announced that everyone, --both the commando that went into the
restaurant to expropriate, and the people outside who were fed (YES! We
will no longer accept eating junk while rich men gorge themselves!)-- were
under arrest for participating in a riot. For the next two hours, some 30
to 40 riot-equiped pigs massed around the activists, and proceeded to
video-tape them, search them, bind their hands with plastic cuffs and lead
them into the paddy wagon. What a dramatic spectacle it made for the
passers-by and all the curious onlookers in the office buildings around us.
As one very ordinary unemployed office clerk told me: "This is just the
beginning; it'll get a lot worse if we continue to cut and cut and cut (in
our social services)" At some point an ambulance was called to the scene to
take away someone who was injured or sick. The police probably sensed that
the situation looked too disturbing, and so at first most of the riot squad
marched off to their vehicles that were out of sight around the corner. As
they hulked off in the crisp snow and sunlight, they looked a lot like a
swarm of shiny black beetles.

The media, who for the most part did not receive forewarning from us (for
security reasons) seemed not to have failed covering the story. All the
local TV networks gave it important, long coverage on the 6 o'clock news.
As we expected, such actions can not really be expected to be viewed
sympathetically, whether by corporate-owned or "publicly" owned media. Some
of  the coverage was less obscurantist than other, though for the most part
the media did its job of denaturing or ignoring the issues and reducing the
event to a spectacular piece of fringe lunacy.

At this hour, many of my friends and comrades are in jail. According to CBC
radio national news, 108 people were arrested, and SRC, the Francophone TV
network mentioned possible charges of mischief, assault and theft. TV news
really harped on the group that organized the action, portraying them as a
terrorist outfit. The Comit=E9 des Sans-Emplois is a citizens' group working
out of a poor neighbourhood. They regroup some very courageous and
experienced radical activists. Their functioning is libertarian and
democratic, and many of us are anarchist-socialists. We can well imagine
that there will be more repression and attempts at demoralizing and
dividing us. The men and women in jail have have good morale, (there was
singing in the background when one activist called me) and our skills and
ability to mobilize only strengthens our resolve.

La lutte continue, the struggle continues.