The Internet Hate Machine picks its IRL battles carefully: Scientology. Wall Street. Arab Spring. And, beloved by Anons worldwide, the globe-spanning soup-kitchen-providing, clothing-and-supplies-donating, homeless-supporting OpSafeWinter.
OpSafeWinter has been so powerful that in the slums of Sao Paulo, the infamous BlackBloc anarchist group has been filmed donating toys to poor children, along with food and essential supplies. Yeah, that powerful.
And it’s been very active in Montreal this year. As the SPVM (Montreal police) found out to their surprise. It’s reasonable to assume that members of the force, both Francophone and Anglo, are now familiar with the meaning of the word “TANGODOWN.”
On January 7, with temperatures varying from -9° to -26° Celsius, the Montreal police force moved in on a longstanding homeless settlement at Viger Square with bulldozers, destroying all possessions in the encampment and then confiscating them for good measure. While police spokesman Laurent Gingras told the CBC “of cleanliness, of public health,” and that most of the material removed was garbage and used needles, CBC video shows more than a dozen sets of bedding including sleeping bags, pillows, and mattresses destroyed and removed from the frigid concrete bunker.
Quite a lot of that destroyed material had been donated days earlier by OpSafeWinterMTL. A member of the protest pointed out to VICE that the used syringes referred to by the police spokesman were, in fact, not removed at all but remained lying around, while the relatively non-sharp-pointy-and-dangerous pillows and sleeping bags were removed instead.
And this all made Anonymous very, very angry.
Anonymous watched with outrage as the SPVM (Montreal Police) on January 7th brutally attacked the homeless encampment at Viger Square, removing the homeless people living there and destroying all of their belongings. Op Safe Winter Montreal was particularly outraged that all of the material that we had provided to the Viger Square encampment on December 23rd was confiscated and disposed of.
Quebec is currently in the midst of a severe cold weather period, with temperatures plummeting to life threatening lows. Raiding encampments and destroying precious cold weather gear belonging to the homeless is an act of war against the poorest of the poor and could easily result in the death of these vulnerable individuals.
Anonymous will not stand by and allow the SPVM (Montreal Police) and the City of Montreal to attack homeless camps in the middle of winter. We call on everyone in Montreal to occupy Viger Square on Sunday – January 11, 2015 to re-establish and protect the encampment there. We will create a sanctuary for the homeless, protect the encampment – and begin providing basic services to them such as serving hot meals. Everyone should make their way to Viger Square on Sunday morning, bringing with them cold weather camping gear and supplies – and be prepared to live there with the homeless people until our demands are met. Everyone should also bring with them protective gear such as gas masks, material for building barricades, and anything else that might be useful in defending the encampment should it be attacked by the SPVM (Montreal Police).
Anonymous demands that the government of Montreal enact legislation creating a permanent moratorium on the raids of homeless encampments from December 1st to March 1st during which time the SPVM (Montreal Police) will be strictly forbidden to attack or harass any homeless encampment within the City of Montreal. Until this demand is met, we will continue to occupy Viger Square, protest in the streets of Montreal – and attack the cyber infrastructure of the City of Montreal and other entities as we see fit.
We Are Anonymous – We Are Legion – We Will Not Forgive Attacks On The Homeless – We Will Not Forget The Heartless Destruction Of The Viger Square Camp
City Of Montreal & SPVM….Expect Us
The video has had over 5000 plays, half coming January 12, the day after OccupyVigerSquare. Possibly because the video was uploaded the same day as the protest it called into existence, and the press release only one day before, there have been no reports of widespread occupation of Viger Square. Additionally, although the police asserted that the city was working in alliance with a nearby homeless shelter, the residents whose dwellings, however marginal, were destroyed by the city, have not all been offered alternate housing.
So far, the hacktivists have taken the website for the Montreal Police (SPVM) offline for a few hours via DDoS attack, but there have been no reported database leaks. Yet.
We spoke to a spokesperson for Anonymous Montreal about the OccupyVigerSquare operation. This is what they had to say about the international Anonymous community’s support for their action.
“The main @OpSafeWinter account as well as all the big Anon accounts have been on-board and re-tweeting our material since day one. Our base of local supporters is slowly increasing as we tap into the other activists, who are tightly networked here in Montreal.”
They were at pains to ensure we understood this was not a one-time intervention, but that the group’s commitment to helping the homeless was longstanding. “Op Safe Winter MTL has been going out collecting and re-distributing supplies to [the] homeless all winter. One of the reasons we were so pissed at the destruction of Viger Square was that we had just dropped off a huge cache of supplies including warm weather protective gear to the Viger Square camp a week or so prior to the initial attack.”
And they were equally at pains to issue a specific call to action, open to anyone, Anon or not. “Come camp with us in Viger Square. The biggest thing we need right now is bodies.” But also action, any action, is welcome if it is positive. “Anything. Everything. Just DO stuff. Make up some hot food and coffee, roll it around downtown in a cart and give it out. Buy warm socks and granola bars and walk around distributing them. The homeless are everywhere, the whole point of Op Safe Winter globally is everyone just help anyway you can.”
They have a specific demand of City Hall, too. “We demand the City of Montreal pass a law that forbids SPVM to harass any homeless encampment from December 1st to March 1st.”
“How many (roughly) are on the core team of this op?”
We Are Legion.
We asked what made them, personally, become involved in this action; why was this their job, when there are millions of other options for the civilly-minded? Strikingly, their answer was that the mission was both inherent in the nature of Anonymous and that the nature of Anonymous was…hierarchical? As always with the Hive Mind, your mileage may vary.
“The answer to this is in the nature of Anonymous. We are part of Anonymous Op Safe Winter, the global iteration – already. In turn we are created from Anonymous Quebec – http://www.AnonymousQuebec.ca – thus there is an upward chain of political responsibility for those homeless people in Viger Square. So the answer is we did it because it was ALREADY our job to do it, it was an area of responsibility because of the way in which the current Global Collective is organized. For the record the next layer up from Anonymous Quebec is Anonymous Global, at -> http://www.AnonymousGlobal.net.”
Ironically, Viger Square is home to an imposing structure, a concrete artwork called “Agora” and meant to evoke the Greek principle of peaceful and productive public gathering for the exchange of ideas. Perhaps the artist should have done “Colosseum” instead.