When the first dozen or so of us arrived at the far-right charity event, Unis pour les Démunis, at Place Émilie-Gamelin, on Saturday the December 9, at around 10:00 a.m., the clothing giveaway, accompanied by coffee and snacks, was underway. Although by this point Storm Alliance had withdrawn its support, apparently the result of a pissing contest between Seana Lee Roy, the SA Montréal president, and her vice president. Posts on Roy’s Facebook page suggest that she has left Storm Alliances taking Unis pour les Démunis with her—charity is her passion, she tells us. Whatever the truth may be, tensions cannot be running all that high, as Roy’s event drew a fair number of volunteers from Storm Alliance and La Meute.
Shortly after 10:00, the good people of SOS Itinérance arrived and began setting up tables of clothing and a generous spread of tasty and healthy food options, with the comrades from Food Against Fascism also contributing. A little later, a church group—from Lachine apparently—arrived with more food and some cake for desert. Another group of people showed up with yet more food and some coffee, accompanied by a hairdresser ready if anyone wanted a haircut; I saw one young man take the opportunity.
By 10:45, we were completely set up, and our crowd of supporters had grown to about at least 50 persons, substantially outnumbering the Unis pour les Démunis’s group. Given that the multi-course buffet was served by long-time street workers who knew many of the homeless and marginalized people who circulate around the park by name, who often knew their stories and their specific problems, and who could take the time to talk a bit, the Unis pour les Démunis event promptly fell apart. Pretty soon we had a line-up of people winding around the park for the food on offer, and it stayed that way until nothing but the slim pickings remained. Several hundred people joined us for a meal that day, and a lot of clothing was given away.
While the food was being served, local antifascist militants circulated in the crowd handing out literature about the actual nature of Munis pour les Démunis and its effective sponsors, Storm Alliance and La Meute. This led to a little pushing and shoving, but nothing that escalated beyond that, and it was specific to a small group of people on each side. The only other clash between the groups resulted from Pat Wolf, an officer of La Meute’s Montérégie clan, charging into the crowd gathered around the SOS Itinéraire tables swinging. He was restrained by an antifascist militant, and the situation was quickly defused, as Unis pour les Démunis organizer Kat Baws moved quickly to collect the wolf that had strayed from the pack. Other then that there was the usual trolling in both directions, the occasional posturing, and even a few attempts at constructive debate that didn’t seem to work out that well.
The police presence was minimal: three bicycle cops and the odd car that drove by and stopped for a minute or two. The cops stepped in on three occasions when there was a little bit of back and forth shouting. As has become typical, what policing they did was of the antifascist militants. As has also become typical, members of Storm Alliance and La Meute and the cops stood around shooting the shit, making jokes, and just generally acting like old friends sharing a good time. No soccer handshake line-up this time, though.
By 11:00, it was clear that whatever Unis pour les Démunis had imagined, this event was now our event. We had the food, there were more of us, and the crowds were coming to us. At 1:00 p.m., a full two hours early, Unis pour les Démunis hoisted the white flag, quietly deposited what remained of their clothing next to the SOS Itinérance table (having not even given away all of their first load, not to mention whatever was in the two mid-sized cube trucks they had parked down the street), and went away to make some weak attempts to spin this into their victory.
In an odd footnote, Dave Tregget took to the “airwaves” that evening to, out of one side of his mouth, distance Storm Alliance from Unis pour les Démunis (while fully supporting the important charity work, blah, blah, blah) and, out of the other, to denounce the turn events as another example the evil cabal of Sorosists from Concordia at work. While I certainly saw some Concordia students there, no Concordia student group was involved in the organizing nor was QPIRG. Thing is, Dave, lots of people don’t like you and your increasingly far-right rhetoric, you silly “con.”
No way to look at this one except as a great day. New friends made, new contacts developed, and a right-wing charade deflated.
Lest anyone actually fell for Seana Lee Roy and Kat Baws’s repeated insistence that they weren’t racist or Islamophobic—they’re just, you know, nice ladies at the service of the of the “démunis”—they decided to clear that up for us only a few days later. By Tuesday, Kat Baws had joined Sue Elle, the latter of whom is your basic fascist, in spinning a fake and debunked news story into a call to march on two mosques in Côte-des-Neiges on December 15, specifically to disrupt Friday prayers. Seanna Lee Roy didn’t waste any time signing on, and the usual collection of idiots from Storm Alliance and La Meute bumped into each other dashing to get on board. You can find more about that at: https://montreal-antifasciste.info/en/2017/12/14/tvas-fake-news-is-whipping-up-islamophobic-frenzy-on-the-far-right/.