RACIAL PROFILING: SIX POLICE CARS SURROUNDED YOUNG BLACK MAN FOR DANCING NEXT TO HIS PARKED CAR
Montréal, March 19, 2017 — A young Black man was intercepted by the police for dancing next to his parked car, in front of his white girlfriend's home in Côte-des-Neiges. Surrounded by six police cars, he eventually received a $48 ticket for “being a pedestrian and standing on the roadway to deal with the occupant of a vehicle.”
On Tuesday, March 7, 2017 at around midnight, Andrew Denis-Lynch, a 26 year-old aspiring actor and model, parked on Kent (near Lemieux) and came out of his girlfriend Helena’s car, which he was driving. The couple, along with Helena’s 15 year-old sister, had come back from McDonald’s for ice cream. With his ice cream cone in hand, Andrew did a quick dance near to the driver’s car door, to cheer up Helena.
A police car pulled up close to him, with a white female on the driver’s seat and a white male on the passenger’s seat. Andrew was asked why he was “happy” and whether the car was his. He explained the car belonged to Helena and that he offered to drive because she was not feeling well. The female officer then asked his name, to which Andrew asked why.
The situation went downhill from this moment on, when the female officer told Andrew he was dancing “in the middle of the street.” She then asked whether he was drunk, and then for his ID. She continued to ask for his name without clarifying why. When Andrew denied any “dancing in the middle of the street”, she said, “We saw you from 2 blocks away”.
Although Andrew gave his name, the officers continued asking, so he offered to write it in the male officer’s pad as he believed that there was a language problem. The female officer called for backup. Sensing the tension rise, Helena exited the car and told her sister to go into then house. When she overheard the female officer say that she would arrest Andrew, Helene told him that the police did not have the right to arrest him without cause.
A verbal exchange ensued between this female officer and Helena. The female officer poked at Helena, by shouting at her not to tell her how to do her job and waving her finger within inches from Helena’s face.
Helena offered to repeat his name in French, sensing a language barrier with the two officers. Andrew invited the female officer to speak to him in French to make her comfortable, to which she replied, “Don’t tell me what language to speak to you in, est-ce que tu parles français ? Au Québec, on parle français!”
When Helena reminded Andrew of his rights to speak in English, the female told her not to answer for him. The female officer then attempted to grab Helena’s arm during this exchange, which led Andrew to gently place his hand in front of Helena to protect her, resulting in the officer grabbing his arm instead. The female officer then let go of his arm.
At this time, five more police cars arrived from both directions of the street. Six more police officers surrounded the couple, their hands on their holsters, causing Andrew and Helena to fear for their safety.
In the end, the two original officers came back from their car, and handed Andrew a ticket. All the police officers left afterwards. The couple was detained in the cold for approximately 20 minutes during the ordeal.
Andrew believed his white girlfriend helped prevent the situation from getting worse.
“Six police cars to deal with a young Black man for allegedly dancing in the middle of a small residential street, in front of his girlfriend, at midnight – I wonder that a young White man would be treated the same way,” said Andrew.
“Frankly, if my girlfriend were Black, the situation would have been worse, both of us would have been arrested and subjected to excessive force. This is exactly the kind of behavior that makes Black people lose confidence in the police,” he added.
For Helena, a second year philosophy and psychology student at Concordia University, the female officer’s conduct was unjustifiably aggressive towards Andrew and herself.
“Her behavior, poking me, pointing her finger so close to my face, and trying to grab me, is definitely not the kind of conduct that can be considered acceptable, professional and legal,” she noted. “This experience really helped me understand what anti-Black bias and White privilege is.”
The couple consulted with the Concordia Student Union Legal Information Clinic, and decided to solicit CRARR’s help to file complaints with the Police Ethics Commissioner and the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission.
“This incident highlights once again the need for the Montreal Police Department to renew, as soon as possible, its Plan of Action against Racial Profiling, which expired in 2014 and which seems no longuer to be a priority for the Department,” noted CRARR’s Executive Director Fo Niemi.