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Video of officer on teen stirs anger in Canada

by ANTONIA NOORI FARZAN THE WASHINGTON POST | June 20, 2021 at 4:33 a.m.

A video showing a Montreal police officer kneeling on the neck of a Black teen -- nearly a year after the city called for a ban on the use of neck restraints -- has sparked anger and comparisons to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The 14-year-old, who has not been publicly identified because he is a minor, does not appear to have been physically harmed by the June 10 encounter. But his mother told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that he is now afraid to leave the house.

"Is it because my son is Black?" she asked. "It's not because we're Black that we have to experience those kind of things. We're humans. Poor child."

Filmed at a bus stop by a bystander who has remained anonymous, the roughly 90-second video began circulating on social media last week. It shows a police officer pinning the teen down by his neck as another officer searches the teen's bag and pulls out what the officer says is a stun gun. The teen does not resist the officers, and appears to be handcuffed.

"One year after the death of George Floyd, and we still have that kind of scene in Montreal," Fo Niemi, executive director of Montreal's Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, told the Canadian Press. "It's very disturbing."

"A youth handcuffed with one knee on the throat -- that brings us back to rather disturbing images. I didn't expect to see that in Quebec in 2021," Frederic Boisrond, a sociologist who became an adviser to Montreal's police force last summer as part of an effort to reduce racial biases in policing, told Radio Canada.

Montreal's police department did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but officials told Canadian media outlets that the incident had occurred after police were called to break up a fight at a high school.

While the video doesn't show what happened before the teen was pinned to the ground, a police spokesman told Radio Canada that he and a second teen had refused to identify themselves. Police arrested and patted down the second teen, and discovered that he was carrying bear spray. The teen being held down in the video appeared to panic and reach for something in his own bag, while pushing the officers away.

Police say they are reviewing the incident and will take action against the officer who restrained the teen if they determine that the use of force was not justified. Not all Montreal police officers are required to wear body cameras, which could hinder efforts to get a full picture of what occurred.

In the wake of Floyd's death last spring, Montreal was one of numerous cities around the world where activists demanded that police stop using chokeholds and other restraints that can obstruct breathing. The city council approved a measure saying such tactics should be used only as a last resort, but the motion was not enforceable because Quebec's provincial government, not the city, has oversight.

Seeing a police officer kneel on the neck of a handcuffed teenager has prompted a fresh wave of calls to ban the practice. The Black Coalition of Quebec noted in a statement that neck restraints have been banned by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for decades, and questioned why local authorities would apply different standards.

"I'm not a police officer, but I do have questions, like, should we still be using those techniques?" Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said Friday, noting that the video had hit home for her as the mother of a 15-year-old boy.

Politicians are pushing for an investigation and more widespread use of body cameras. Premier Francois Legault said Friday that he had been "deeply troubled" by the incident and intended to work with the Montreal police to determine "what can be done to ensure we don't see that anymore."

Print Headline: Video of officer on teen stirs anger in Canada

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