A band of masked vandals describing themselves as “ungovernables” roamed through a trendy commercial district in Hamilton hurling rocks at small businesses and causing up to $100,000 in damage, local police said Sunday.
Witnesses reported a group of around 30 people walked down Locke Street throwing eggs, breaking windows, damaging vehicles and setting off fireworks shortly before 10:00 p.m. Saturday night.
Photos and video on social media show a group of masked individuals dressed in black carrying a banner that reads “We are the ungovernable”. Residents also posted photos of the extensive damage to several storefronts in the neighbourhood.
Reports from residents and witnesses say the group convened at Queen Street and Aberdeen Avenue and then walked several blocks west towards Locke Street. Witnesses say police were on scene but no arrests were made on scene.
Hamilton police say officers responded to the disturbance in the Durand neighbourhood around 10 p.m. They approached the group but had to retreat and call for backup.
“We had to amass a large contingent of officers to control the group,” said inspector Paul Hamilton.
Once additional officers arrived, the group quickly dispersed and many of them discarded their clothing as they fled. Police continued to canvass the area overnight and detectives and forensic investigators collected evidence and spoke to witnesses.
Insp. Hamilton said at this point it is too early to identify who the group was, but the incident cannot be described as a spontaneous protest or the exercise of free speech — the gathering was deliberate and planned. Charges likely to be laid will be related to mischief and unlawful assembly.
The chaos on the street caused anxiety inside many local restaurants fielding busy Saturday night crowds, said Tony Greco, Chair of the Locke Street Business Improvement Area.
Patrons hid under tables as they listened to glass shattering and bangs echoing through the neighbourhood.
The vandalism came as a particular shock to local coffee and donut outfit Donut Monster, which just opened its doors as a retailer about two months ago after extensive renovations.
Owner Reuben Vanderkwaak said he arrived at the shop late Saturday night to find at least half the newly installed windows shattered inside the shop and what appeared to be landscaping stones lying nearby.
He said several other storefronts in the area appear to have been similarly hard-hit.
Hamilton’s Mayor Fred Eisenberger weighed in on Twitter expressing his concern about the night’s events.
In a release, MPP for Hamilton Centre, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath asked residents to come together and show their support for businesses on Locke Street by marking Mar. 10 as #LoveLockeDay.
“Saturday night’s senseless vandalism is an attack on us all,” said Horwath in a release. “In Hamilton, we support our neighbours, and the damage done to our community makes it even more important that we pull together.”
The Locke Street Business Improvement Association said they were “devastated” by the targeted vandalism, but grateful for the community’s support.
No injuries were reported and police say it is unclear if or what the group was protesting. There is no word on any arrests or charges at this time.
Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report