“DRINKING WHILE BLACK” CASE OF AFRICAN AMERICAN VISITORS AND COLLEGE PROFESSOR ARRESTED ON CRESCENT STREET SENT TO INVESTIGATION
Montreal, October 22, 2015 — The case of a local black professor who was roughly arrested by officers of the Montreal Police Department’s anti-gang squad in a local pub on Crescent Street during the Labor Day 2014 week-end has been sent to investigation by the Quebec human rights commission.
The case involves Peter (not his real name) who was having a drink in a pub with his two friends visiting from Boston, Fred and Rick. All three men are in their forties, and one of Peter’s friend works for the Massachussetts State Government. The group was chatting with a female patron next to their table when one of his friends, Fred, borrowed Peter’s cell phone and went outside to make a call.
Outside the pub, Fred was quickly accosted by two police officers who grabbed his phone and demanded his ID. The officers searched his phone, and said they would search him. When Fred protested, as he did not know what was happening, he was immediately arrested and handcuffed.
Inside, Peter and his friend saw between four and six police officers going into the club and walking towards them. Two officers approached Peter and his friend and demanded ID. They also asked where the Black men were from, without informing them why they were surrounded and questioned.
When Peter took out his wallet, one officer grabbed his wallet from him, searched through his wallet and then stated why he had “all these credits cards” on him. This officer wanted to search Peter because, in his words, they just “arrested his friend outside for drugs.” Within a matter of seconds, Peter was violently dragged outside of the pub, his hands forced behind back. Rick was also hauled outside with force. Both men were not resisting.
Peter was pushed against a wall and handcuffed. He was then searched. The whole incident took place in full view of other customers of the lounger and passers-by.
After a supervisor’s intervention, Peter and his two friends were then released. The three men left, shaken and fearful for their lives. His two friends returned home the day after, completely repulsed by the violent treatment by the Montreal Police.
With CRARR’s help, Peter filed a civil rights complaint, claiming $45,000 in damages against the supervisor, the two officers who arrested him, and their employer, the City of Montreal. Fred also filed a police ethics complaint with the Police Ethics Commissioner.
Peter’s ordeal did not end there. Except for the supervisor, none of the officers involved, who belonged to the anti-gang squad known as Eclipse, could be clearly identified by both the MPD and the Police Ethics Commissioner, leading to the closing of Peter’s police ethics complaint.
Mediation at the Quebec human rights commission also failed due to complications with the identification of the police officers.
“I don't think any positive outcome will surface out of mediation with SPVM,” said Peter. “The investigation must show how this shadowy Eclipse squad operates, especially in its dealings with bars and clubs on Crescent Street, and explain why and how the officers who were involved in my arrest with handcuffs and search were not properly identified.”
“The credibility of all these agencies is at stake here, since no one is willing to be accountable and responsible for my arrest. If the Police Ethics Commissioner or the human rights commission have no power obtain answers from the Montreal Police, then there is deeper problem,” he noted.
Another case involving racial profiling and the Eclipse arrest of a Black man picking up a friend on Crescent Street this summer will soon be filed with the human rights commission.