Brownstein: Protesters pick wrong targets in Old Montreal

It’s heartless and unconscionable that these merchants were targeted. How about their "freedom?"

Workers survey the damage outside Rooney shop on Notre-Dame St. in Old Montreal on Sunday.

Seriously? Anti-curfew protesters take out their rage on a group more hard-hit than most by COVID-19: Old Montreal merchants.

Perhaps these gutless maroons – hollering “freedom for the young” as they rampaged – should have considered the plight of these merchants before setting fires, smashing windows and pillaging their stores.

Regardless of whatever subsidies they’ve received, these beleaguered shopkeepers have gone more than a year without their lifeblood: tourists.

It’s not us city-dwellers skipping along the quaint cobblestoned streets of Old Montreal who are the real sustainers of commercial life there. It’s the busloads of visitors hailing from all corners of the planet gobbling up mementoes of their visits and noshing there. At least it was before the pandemic.

People everywhere are frustrated and angry with lockdowns and ever-changing rules. It’s understandable.

But few are likely more miffed than those trying to survive in Old Montreal. It’s both heartless and unconscionable that they were targeted on Sunday. How about their “freedom?”

Anti-curfewers, anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers and other conspiracy theorists have every right to protest. But they often appear to be unclear on the concept of whom to go after.

These maskless marauders should have had every reason to expect to be arrested for their mayhem and to receive substantial tickets for health violations. And some of them got just that.

Of the hundreds of mostly young demonstrators who gathered Sunday night, police arrested seven and issued 107 tickets for health violations relating to masking and social distancing. All the same, good luck trying to collect.

Perhaps more fitting a penalty would be that old timey-time punishment — from back in the day when Old Montreal was New Montreal — of the pillory, wherein a wooden device would secure the head and hands of the perp in a public spot for a short spell. Apparently, the public humiliation would be such to set many a miscreant on a straight and narrow path.

Put down your quills. Just kidding.  A little.

But no kidding about this: What’s scarier than COVID-19 are those who still maintain the pandemic is all a hoax, who still believe masks and distancing are an infringement on their liberties and those of their school-age children, and who put the lives of frontline health-care and other essential workers at risk.

What more proof does it take than the millions of deaths and major hospitalizations for this to sink in?

With any luck, with the continued rollout of vaccines and if we control the variants, we just might hit some sort of herd immunity by the end of the year if we follow guidelines.

No question, we’re all dizzy trying to keep up with the latest rules and to maintain some semblance of sanity amidst this madness. Forget normalcy. That’s long gone.

We can debate the merits of . We can debate the wisdom of the quick opening and then the quick closing of an array of businesses, at great cost to the owners and employees. We can debate the logic of having takeout at restaurants, wherein customers can enter, pick up their cooked fare and eat it outside on a not-so-sanitized city bench as opposed to having a meal served in more sanitary conditions on a resto terrasse. We can debate the rationale of going to a movie or play inside confined quarters with family members outside our bubbles but not to be able to mix with family members outside our bubbles in smaller, distanced numbers in our backyards.

We can and we will debate all kinds of issues until we’re blue in our masked faces — some of our masked faces, anyway.

But there is simply no debate when it comes to taking out our angst on those innocents who are suffering more. Shame!

Concerned Montrealers would do well to heed the advice of Mayor Valérie Plante by showing a little love for Old Montreal merchants and supporting their businesses.

  1. Restaurant co-owner Rob Stutman cleans up on April 12, 2021, following the previous night's anti-curfew riots in Old Montreal.

    Already hit by pandemic, Old Montreal picks up pieces after anti-curfew riot

  2. Montreal police stop and check people traveling in pairs or groups on Sainte-Catherine Street after curfew in Montreal on Sunday, April 11, 2021.

    Montreal police handed out record 583 curfew tickets last week

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