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Ste-Catherine St. a wall of plywood ahead of Sunday anti-racism protest|BCI CANADA

© Allen McInnisAldo manager Marshall Banks surveys a small line outside the Ste-Catherine St. store in Montreal, on Saturday, June 6, 2020. Aldo was one of many shops that have boarded up their store fronts in advance of a march against police brutality.

Montreal’s main downtown shopping street morphed into the street of plywood on Saturday as merchants prepared for the city’s second large anti-racism and anti-police brutality demonstration in as many weeks.

The second march in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and for all victims of police violence, planned for Sunday, is to start with a gathering at Place Émilie-Gamelin in eastern downtown at 10 a.m. The march is planned for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“We’re not taking a chance this week,” Marshall Banks, the manager of an Aldo shoe store on Ste-Catherine St. W., said as he oversaw a lineup of socially-distanced customers outside waiting their turn to be let in.

The store and many others along Ste-Catherine were boarded up by Saturday afternoon. A few shops reported that the wood and supplies alone for the operation cost them around $800 apiece.

The Aldo store had installed a door in its plywood shell so it could keep open for business on Saturday.

“I feel a little weird about it,” Banks said as he looked around at the different shops.

© Allen McInnisThe Apple Store on Ste-Catherine St. appears to make a statement while covering their flagship storefront windows ahead of a planned march against police brutality.

The plywood protecting the windows took the shape of a large black square, a symbol used in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in Montreal, on Saturday, June 6, 2020.

The Apple store across the street had chosen to close down for the weekend, and its entire two-floor windowed storefront was boarded up and painted black.

“We’re in a weird world this year,” Banks said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic that kept retail stores in Montreal closed from March until just over a week ago.

Banks said the shoe store will be closed on Sunday because of the demonstration. And it will be closed on Monday, he said, in case its employees are needed to help another store location clean up if there’s a repeat of last week’s vandalism and looting after the protes

© Allen McInnisWork crews from CBRE board up an empty store front on Ste-Catherine St. in Montreal, on Saturday, June 6, 2020. CBRE was one of many shops and building owners that have boarded up their store fronts in advance of a march against police brutality.

In the block west of the shoe store, four workers were busy drilling a wood frame into place outside a vacant storefront before securing plywood to it.

This was the crew’s third and last storefront to barricade for the owner of the commercial building, and they had another two hours of work in Saturday’s heat before they would be finished, Ravi Kana, one of the workers, said. It was three hours of work to board up each storefront, he said.

Shoppers Lynn and Howard Wolfe said they’ve never seen Ste-Catherine St. boarded up as it was.

It’s a shame that merchants have to install plywood to prevent vandalism when the demonstration against systemic racism and police brutality is pacific and necessary, Lynn Wolfe said as the couple exited a partially boarded-up Holt Renfrew Ogilvy store.

© Allen McInnisCustomers enter Holt Renfrew Ogivly, one of many shops boarded up along Ste-Catherine St. in Montreal, on Saturday, June 6, 2020.

“I think it has to be done,” she said of systemic racism. “It’s time that it all ended. It’s worldwide. You watch the news and it’s everywhere.”

The cause is laudable, and the violence and looting that followed last week’s peaceful protest in Montreal seemed to be carried out by a group that had latched on to the protest, Howard Wolfe said.

“I’m sure it’s a group that doesn’t march peacefully,” he said. “It’s a group that’s intending to cause violence.”

Demonstration organizers could not be reached for comment on Saturday.

Montreal Gazette

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