06/06/2013 09:01 EDT | Updated 08/06/2013 05:12 EDT

St-Henri squatters dismantle camp under threat of eviction

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.

Well-known Montreal businessman and landowner Peter Sergakis owns the vacant lot the squatters have taken over.

He said he went to see the neighbourhood police yesterday afternoon to ask for help in removing the illegal encampment.

“I let them pass the message,” Sergakis said earlier this week. “We’re in a democratic country, but I think enough is enough after three, four days.”

He stood across the street this morning with a police megaphone asking the protesters to leave peacefully.

Police officers stood about a half-block away from the encampment, preparing for a possible clash with the squatters.

They began setting up a perimeter around the lot around 7:30 a.m. this morning, asking a nearby crossing guard to move his car and to leave his usual crossing spot.

Squad cars and officers on motorcycles surveyed the scene, driving by the site without stopping.

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.