The Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) had barely erected their tents of their “right to housing” camp before police intervened and dismantled it Thursday afternoon.
Photos screenshots from this video from the Montreal Gazette.
The camp had been set up in a park next to the headquarters of the Montreal police department close to Place des Arts, following a march through downtown streets.
The goal of the demonstration was to alert the public to the lack of affordable housing and the plight of the homeless.
FRAPRU blames the Quebec government of lowering the number of new social housing units to 1,500 from 3,000 in its latest budget. The group blames Ottawa for progressively reducing the budget geared toward social housing.
Police had issued an ultimatum soon after the arrival of the protesters, asking for the removal of the tents. About 15 tents remained up and police moved in to remove them.
The removal was not met by resistance but three people were arrested for obstructing police.
FRAPRU promised to set up a second camp that will remain secret until it’s erected.
Earlier this week, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said he understands the movement’s goal but does not want to see a camp set up in Montreal. He said he is ready to hold news conferences with FRAPRU on the topic and feels governments could do more to support social housing.
“Let’s be patient. If you want to raise the awareness, I’m part of it. I will help you. We will work together. But for public safety matters, for the sake of our citizens, I cannot just let that camp to be put there.” he said during a news conference.
He added that such camps can lead to other dangers, security issues and pose a fire risk. People with mental health issues can also find themselves in vulnerable positions, he said.
“I want to protect the population and the people who will be part of the camp,” said Coderre. “It can get out of hand. Remember what happened with Occupy?”
At first, FRAPRU had asked the mayor to consider allowing a camp and Coderre had requested a meeting with the organizers.
Over the last few months, FRAPRU garnered public support from Quebec celebrities like comedian Andrée Lachapelle, film producer Robert Lepage, comedians Lise Dion and Michel Côté and several others.
The organization said the Montreal municipal government is not the target of its protests, but rather the provincial and federal governments.