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Montréal, July 7, 2020 — The mother of a 15-year-old teenage girl who was violently arrested in a NDG park late last month is asking Montreal Police Chief Sylvain Caron to meet with her and listen to how she and her daughter have been deeply affected by the excessive force used by police officers during the incident.

Speaking out alongside representatives from the Filipino Association of Montreal and Suburbs (FAMAS), the Filipino Heritage Month Association, the Black Community Resource Centre (BCRC), the Council of South Asian Communities and CRARR, and City Councillor Marvin Rotrand, Lisa Sim called the police officers’ use of excessive force and their decision to lay criminal charges against her daughter, “the most painful and inhuman treatment” ever experienced by the young girl and her mother.

On the evening of June 29, Jia Li Riddell, a 15-year-old Asian teenager was with a group of friends in Girouard Park when SPVM officers arrived and informed the group that they were violating social distancing orders and drinking in the park.

The officers told them to disperse, but when Jia Li began to walk away, a police officer grabbed her and threw her to the ground. Jia Li was to be charged with resisting arrest.

According to witnesses, Jia Li was the only racialized girl in the group of teenagers and the only person to be violently arrested by police officers. Another white girl was also arrested and initially charged with a criminal offense, but those charges were reportedly dropped.

“Chief Caron, I am speaking to you as a mother whose daughter was violently arrested by your officers. As a father, you must understand what it is like to see your own child in a video, treated like a criminal by those who are supposed to serve and protect,” Sim stated.

“I am asking you to come to my home, meet with my daughter and I, as human beings, hear our story, and feel our pain. I know you don’t speak English. You may have never met with people like us before, and you may have no idea of how we live our lives as Asian women and girls in Montreal, but we want to know your heart, your soul, and what you will say to me, Jia Li’s mother,” she added.

“The way the police officers arrested this young girl was really excessive and over the top, for violating social distance rules. This is a 15-year-old youth, for God’s sake,” said FAMAS President Cesar Manuel. “There was so much shock and anger in our Filipino community, which is now galvanized to confront police brutality and racial profiling, because it has happened to one of our own,” he added.

For Yvonne Sam, representative of the BCRC, this incident further eroded racialized communities’ confidence in the Montreal police.

“In our Black community, we are accustomed to this kind of excessive force by the police used against our young boys and men, and now we have videotaped evidence of excessive force used against a 15-year-old Asian girl. The incident just lowered the level of public trust in the SPVM a few notches,” she added.

Equally concerning, one witness reported that they were threatened with pepper spray by the officers involved if they did not stop filming the incident.

“One of my biggest concerns is the idea that a police officer would threaten to use pepper spray against someone filming the arrest,” said Councilor Rotrand. “This incident raises many disturbing issues and it shows once again why we need body cameras in Montreal.”

The SPVM has recently come under scrutiny after the release of an internal report on racial bias in the department last fall, which found that members of racialized and Indigenous communities are far more likely to be stopped by the police. Last month, the Office de consultation publique de Montréal released its report of a public consultation on systemic racism, which calls on the SPVM to meaningfully address systemic racism within the department.

“It’s time we pay more attention to the link between race and excessive force,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi. “Police interceptions of racialized people are one thing, but the pattern of escalation following an interception and leading to excessive force, violent arrests and criminal charges should be more closely examined,” he added.