THREE ANGLOPHONE BLACK WOMEN TAKE LA RONDE TO HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION FOR BIAS, EXCESSIVE FORCE AND ABUSIVE ARREST
Montreal, February 3, 2017 — Three English-speaking Black women who were violently arrested, detained and fined at La Ronde have lodged complaints of race and gender discrimination against Six Flags, the playground’s owner.
The three women, who look much younger than their actual age, are professionals. Kate is in her fifties, and is an employee at a major air transport company in Montreal. Her daughter May, in her thirties, works in international development and finance. Jane, in her late thirties, works in finance with a large insurance provider corporation. All three women are between 5ft and 5ft4, and 120-140 lbs.
In July 2014, the three women, along with a few of their friends and five young children, all under 14, went to La Ronde to watch the fireworks. Everyone in the group was Black and English speaking. After a small verbal altercation between two women in the group, Patricia and Jane, the group decided to leave the park. As they walked away from where the spectators stood to watch the fireworks, a white male security guard stopped Jane, and asked her to leave. She told the security guard she was leaving and proceeded to the exit.
As she was leaving the park with her children, the security guard aggressively grabbed and twisted her arm behind her back. More security guards arrived on the scene. Two guards proceeded to join forces to aggressively throw around Jane, causing her to hit her head and body on metal chairs and tables of the food stand area.
Another friend was also violently detained by a few male security guards. Her head was held by a guard, who banged it into the ground.
The situation escalated as more security guards arrived on the scene. These guards then approached Kate and May. One guard threw May on the ground, with her chest on the ground. Another guard then pulled her hands high behind her back to handcuff her.
Seeing her daughter and other friends being aggressively tackled, Kate called out to the guards. One guard grabbed and then threw her into a chair and threatened her, telling her she would be on the ground next to if she did not stay seated in the chair.
After a few minutes, three of the women were finally handcuffed. No one was informed at any time of the reason for the detention and arrest. The group of women were then escorted to the La Ronde Security’s holding area. They were subjected to public humiliation of being taken to the holding room through crowds of people who had come to watch the fireworks.
Patricia was dragged to the holding area by security guards, each one holding each of her limbs to lift her from the ground. As she was being dragged, her shirt slipped off, exposing her bra and breasts. She requested the guards allow her to fix her top, to which the guards responded by saying, “you’re nothing to look at”.
The women were detained for approximately two hours in the security holding area. Paramedics arrived to administer medical care to Patricia who needed her arm wrapped up in a sling and to Natalie, the women’s friend who had her head banged into the ground by guards.
Finally, at around 2:00 a.m., after approximately two hours, two police officers arrived. Kate overheard one of the security guards who had behaved most aggressively give the police his false account on the incident by telling them that the women had hit the security guards.
All five women were given a ticket of $638, for “participating in fighting or other physical violence on public property or exterior land adjacent to public”. One police officer even asked Jane whether she had any tattoos and if so, how many. None of the women were given the opportunity to tell the police their side of the story. At approximately 2:30 am, the women were released.
All five women contested the fines. Court hearings into some of these women's fines will take place later this month at Montreal's Municipal Court.
Jane suffers a permanent arm injury from when a security guard first physically grabbed her arm. She can no longer sleep on her right side, her children were traumatized and couldn’t sleep alone for a month. May had to take two weeks off work and was prescribed medicine for anxiety and pulled muscles. Kate still experiences stress and anxiety when she sees the police.
This upsetting experience left the women feeling traumatized and fearful of taking action. Last year’s violent police killings of Black people in the U.S. and in Ottawa, and the Black Lives Matter movement encouraged these women to break their silence after two years and seek help.
In the complaints filed to the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission on their behalf, CRARR claims these women were subject to discrimination based on race intersecting with gender by La Ronde’s security guards throughout the incident.
CRARR is seeking more than $100,000 in damages against La Ronde for three of the women who decided to fight back. It also asks that the Commission reviews La Ronde guards’ use of force and detention methods.
“We try to imagine whether the treatment of these women would be the same had they been white. Indeed, we found it highly difficult, if not unimaginable, that white women would be treated this way in front of their children,” said Amirah Arif, a University of Ottawa law intern who worked on the case last summer.
CRARR is also representing an Arabic couple before the Human Rights Commission, who was detained and then expelled and banned from La Ronde when the father, who accompanied his young daughter and then returned to join his wife at the waiting line against the instruction of an employee to go to the back of the line.
CRARR is urging other individuals, particularly racialized people, who have been exposed to abusive interventions and excessive force by La Ronde security guards to come forward.