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Protesters Raid Canada Hotel Buffet

December 4, 1997

MONTREAL (AP) _ Anti-poverty demonstrators barged into a restaurant in one of Montreal’s top hotels, scooped up food from an all-you-can-eat buffet, then retreated to the sidewalk to hold an eat-in with fellow protesters. Police, not amused, made 108 arrests.

The incident occurred Wednesday at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, one of the city’s largest hotels, in the heart of downtown.

After converging with placards at the main entrance to the hotel, a unit of protesters invaded the lobby-level restaurant as it was packed with 200 lunchtime diners.

The invaders rushed to the buffet table, grabbed bowls full of salads, meats, fruits and deserts, then went back outside to share the booty with their comrades. The protest was intended to draw attention to what they said was increasing poverty and hunger in Montreal.

``They just came in and came out,″ said hotel spokeswoman Caroline Des Rosiers. ``It happened so quickly, and our staff remained calm, that no one got upset. People remained in their seats and no one moved.″

She couldn’t say how much the hijacked food cost. The buffet goes for $9 U.S. a person.

The hotel did not seek to press charges, but helmeted police officers decided to get tough anyway, arresting all those at the sidewalk protest.

Ian Lafreniere, spokesman for the Montreal police, said they will be charged with public mischief.

He said it was the third such action this year by the Committee of the Unemployed. Earlier this year, the group orchestrated what it called ``shop-ins,″ where demonstrators grabbed food off supermarket shelves without paying for it.

``We will not tolerate public disorder in Montreal,″ Lafreniere said.

Leaflets found near the hotel denounced the ``hypocrisy which takes over each year before the holidays,″ resulting in token charity for the poor.

``We want more. We want to eat all year long and we will find ways to do so,″ the leaflets said.

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