By Lauren Scott

A group of anti-capitalist protesters caused $100,000 in damages to businesses in one of the most affluent and rapidly-gentrifying streets in Hamilton, Ont.

On the night of March 3, a group of about 30 people dressed in black with covered faces walked down Locke Street vandalizing businesses, throwing rocks, setting off fireworks and damaging cars.

The group walked through the streets with a dark banner that laid out their message. “We Are The Ungovernable,” it read.

Hamilton police have since linked the spree to an anarchist book fair held earlier that day at a local high school in the city’s Westdale neighbourhood, according to a March 6 news release. However, Staff Sgt. Mike Cunliffe said at a press conference he could not disclose what evidence linked the fair to the incident.

Locke Street is one of the city’s most heavily gentrified streets, lined up and down with small businesses and specialty shops from decadent donuts to a dog café.

A week after the riot, Ontario NDP leader and MPP for Hamilton Centre Andrea Horwath declared March 10 was #LoveLockeDay, and encouraged citizens to support the businesses affected by the vandals.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger called the riot an “act of terror,” while city councillor Tom Jackson called the group a bunch of “faceless, gutless cowards.”

Now the city has a team of four officers combing through security video, trying to identify suspects.

“They can ply their anarchy in jail,” Eisenberger told CBC News.

No arrests have been made at the time of publication.

In the wake of the protest, Hamilton anarchist space The Tower was broken-into and vandalized by what the organization called a mob of “far-right goons” in a Facebook post.

“No, the actions on Locke and Aberdeen on Saturday night were not organized by [T]he Tower, but yes, we support what happened and are in solidarity with those who carried them out,” The Tower said in the post.

A local anarchist blog North Shore Counter-Info published an anonymous article a few days after the incident, which confirmed the anti-gentrification motivation behind the riot.

“Locke St was downtown’s first gentrified street, its ‘success story’ as Mayor Fred [Eisenberger] might say, the surrounding neighbourhoods the first to see the rent hikes that have since come to dominate so many of our lives,” the March 5 blog post read. “Turning the tables and finally counterattacking Saturday night helped me to shake off some of the fear and frustration that build[s] up when you’re trapped in a hopeless situation.”

Interestingly, while many small businesses like Donut Monster and independent clothing store Pippa and Prue had their windows smashed in, the Starbucks up the street was unharmed.

The irony was not lost on the anarchist blogger and they affirmed that this was not an intentional choice.

“To all the undoubtedly sincere and principled anti-capitalists on the internet who wonder why the Starbucks didn’t get smashed but all the poor, sweet small businesses did, it’s only because it was just a bit too far north,” they wrote. “My one regret from the evening.”

“Fuck the rich. Fuck capitalists (even the ones who sell high-end baked goods).”

This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 10, No. 6 (Mar/Apr 2018).