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Canada Violent arrest of young black man by Laval police leads to yet more calls for police reform

12:07  05 june  2020
12:07  05 june  2020 Source:   cbc.ca

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A shocking video of Laval police pulling a black man out of a car by his hair last week has surfaced, as protests denouncing police violence and systemic racism are leading to renewed calls for police reform in the U.S. and here in Canada.

The video, separated into two one-minute chunks, has been seen nearly 900,000 times since it was posted to Facebook last week, circulating amid footage of other brutal police interventions.

It shows a black man in his 20s in the passenger seat of a car, speaking with a Laval police officer standing on the sidewalk.

The officer asks the passenger to get out of the car, and the passenger asks why.

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"For obstruction and a police investigation," the officer says, in French.

"But what investigation?" the passenger asks.

"An investigation," the officer replies, reaching into the vehicle and pulling the man out by his dreadlocks. He then knees the man in the head and throws him to the ground.

The second video shows the man contorted, face down on the ground, with two officers on top of him. They are yelling at him to put his hands behind his back, even while one of them grips the man's wrist above his head.

At one point, one of the officers can be seen punching the man's head and back.

"But you're hitting me!" the man can be heard exclaiming. "You're holding me."

a person standing next to a car: The vehicle Samuel, his brother and his friend were in when they were pulled over still bears the marks of the dogs from the Laval police canine unit used to search the car. © Verity Stevenson/CBC The vehicle Samuel, his brother and his friend were in when they were pulled over still bears the marks of the dogs from the Laval police canine unit used to search the car.

Samuel, whose last name CBC has agreed not to publish because he fears harassment, has relived those moments over and over since the arrest, which happened at the very same hour that George Floyd was killed in a brutal police takedown half a continent away, Minneapolis, on May 25.

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"All I wanted to know is, why did I have to come out of the car," Samuel recounted to CBC Wednesday.

"What's going to happen if I get out of the car? What are they going to do to me? Am I going to put my hands behind my back, get handcuffed and get killed or something?"

"I can't stop thinking about it. At night, when I'm alone, it's in my head. I can't sleep. I need some help."

'With such disdain'

Will Prosper has seen dozens of videos like this since he traded in his RCMP badge for social activism 12 years ago.

Prosper said he is repelled by "the way he was treated by that police officer — with such disdain."

Like Prosper, Samuel is from Montréal-Nord, and the civil rights advocate has known him since he was a kid.

Prosper said Samuel had taken workshops to know his rights in case of a police encounter. And he'd received a certificate of merit from Montreal police for his community involvement.

Yet the video is evidence that police immediately saw this young black man as a threat, Prosper said.

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"These were gratuitous assaults," said Gunar Dubé, one of two lawyers who have offered to help Samuel file a civil suit against the Laval police officers who arrested him.

"This is an obvious case of racial profiling," said the other lawyer, Alain Arsenault.

a man wearing a hat: Will Prosper has seen dozens of videos like the one that capture Samuel's arrest since he traded in his RCMP badge for social activism 12 years ago. © CBC Will Prosper has seen dozens of videos like the one that capture Samuel's arrest since he traded in his RCMP badge for social activism 12 years ago.

No racial profiling in Laval: police

Laval police disagree.

"The Laval police service does not have a racial profiling problem," said a police spokesperson Sgt. Geneviève Major, pointing to the fact there were eight racial-profiling complaints against the Laval police service in 2019, and Laval police respond to about 150,000 calls per year.

Laval police do not collect race-based data on police interactions and have no immediate plans to do so, Major said.

"Any individual with that same behaviour would have gotten the same treatment by the police officers," she said.

Major said Laval police stopped the car for erratic driving, and the officers told Samuel multiple times over several minutes to get out of the car because they suspected drugs were inside.

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This has led to clashes with riot police , who have resorted to flash grenades, pepper bullets, and tear gas. Multiple clashes are being reported in many US cities as people protest the death of Minneapolis black resident George Floyd. In a number of states, the National Guard has been called

This violent arrest and discrimination of young black men needs to be checked. It turns out the someone had called them claiming he had kidnapped his own son.

Officers called the canine unit, and all three occupants of the vehicle were searched. No drugs were found.

Arsenault believes the search was illegal and that police did not have a sufficient motive to order anyone out of the car.

The men were ticketed for failing to abide by physical-distancing directives, and Samuel could face charges — including obstruction of justice.

'Nobody deserves that — nobody'

Blame a moment's indecision on a hot night.

Samuel, his brother and a friend were just out for a drive, Samuel said, and a stop to buy cold bottles of water.

They ended up in Laval, just across the Rivière-des-Prairies from their homes in Montréal-Nord.

They couldn't pick between a dépanneur and the IGA on Cartier Boulevard, Samuel said. At one point, the driver settled on one of the stores, and made a U-turn. That's when they were pulled over.

Samuel says he understands the value of the video circulating widely, but that each time he sees it go by on his feed he relives what happened.

"Nobody deserves that — nobody," he says.

a woman standing in front of a building: Samuel is planning to file a civil suit against the Laval police officers who arrested him. © CBC Samuel is planning to file a civil suit against the Laval police officers who arrested him.

Prosper worries about the effect the arrest has had on Samuel's mental well-being, and the effect the video has on other black men when they watch it.

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"You feel excluded, and you develop a frustration with a system that doesn't do anything for you," Prosper said. "Nobody cares for you — that's the feeling we are having."

Prosper is disheartened that Quebec's political leaders still don't recognize police disproportionately target black people, Indigenous people and other people of colour, even as videos like Samuel's proliferate and the evidence mounts.

Last fall, the Montreal police service released a report from three independent researchers which found Indigenous people and black people were four to five times more likely than white people to be stopped by police.

The SPVM still hasn't announced the measures it plans to take in response to those findings of racial profiling.

And just this week, Premier François Legault denied, once again, there is systemic racism in Quebec, even while he said he "stands in solidarity with people who denounce racial violence."

"I think that there is some discrimination in Quebec, but there's no systemic discrimination, no system in Quebec of discrimination," he said Monday, adding "it's a very small minority of the people who are doing some discrimination."

Prosper wonders what more proof Quebec's leaders need.

"All of us are tired, and tired of saying the same thing over these years."

"People said that things are going to change. Well, it's not changing right now. It's not changing at this time, after all of this," he said.

"Don't be surprised if we are in the streets because we've been facing the police brutalizing us for years and years, and years, and years, and nobody has done anything."


Video: Police defend use of force in arrest of black man in Quebec (cbc.ca)

Canada's Trudeau calls arrest video of indigenous leader 'shocking' .
Canada's Trudeau calls arrest video of indigenous leader 'shocking'OTTAWA/WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday that newly released video showing a forceful arrest of a Canadian indigenous leader was "shocking," saying it raised serious questions.

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