12/02/2013 08:03 EST | Updated 02/01/2014 05:59 EST

Hochelaga-Maisonneuve group takes aim at vandalism

Businesspeople and politicians in Montreal's Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood are taking on anti-gentification vandals.

In recent months, a number of businesses have been spray-painted with anti-capitalist and anti-gentrification slogans, and windows have been broken.

Four restaurants were attacked last week alone.

“At first we were afraid, because it was the middle of the night,” says Annie Martel, a co-owner of Bistro In Vivo, one of the restaurants attacked last week.

A brick sailed through the front window with a message attached criticizing the restaurant for being too expensive, and telling the owners they’re not safe in the neighbourhood.

"I am just confused. I don't understand how breaking my window and asking me to go away will help their cause,” Martel says.

Local housing activist Jonathan Aspireault-Massé explained the issue by saying that upscale restaurants and other businesses attract people with money to the area, driving up rents and making more room for condos.

“This kind of development excludes a lot of (the) population. You know, the poorest population,” he says.

Borough Mayor Réal Ménard says he knows these problems exist.

“We want to find a solution but we will never accept if people want to have a dialogue and they promote vandalism and violence,” Ménard says.

Fighting back against vandalism

A group of politicians and business owners in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve are banding together to fight the vandalism, but also look at the effects of gentrification and development on its current population.

The group will hold its first public meeting on Dec. 7.

“There are some people who have some objections to what’s happening, and I want — personally — to understand exactly what these objections are and how we can solve that. I think this committee is a step in the right direction,” says Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, the NDP’s MP for Hochelaga and a member of the committee.