Police in Montreal are investigating after video captured two white officers kneeling on the neck and lower back of a Black teen during a June 10 incident.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports that the video, which is less than two minutes long, doesn’t show what led to the officers pinning the 14-year-old to the ground in Montreal’s Villeray district that day. A spokesperson for the police department told the CBC that officers were responding to a fight that involved “more than a dozen young people from various schools.”
The video showed the officers wrestling the teen’s hands behind his back as they knelt on top of him, and he didn’t appear to resist the officers in any way.
From the CBC:
The two officers rise after about 15 seconds. The officer who had his knee on the youth’s neck stands briefly, adjusts the youth’s body position, and then kneels with both legs on the teen’s neck and back.
The officer stays in that position for another 37 seconds.
While still pinning the teen down, the officer searches a bag and hands an object to his colleague. That officer then appears to show the object to the camera, saying the teen was being arrested for having a stun gun.
Beyond what is seen in the footage, it is not clear how long the officer was on the teen’s neck, because the video starts and ends with him restraining the teen.
In a later interview, police told Radio-Canada that two minors were charged for carrying weapons, and an investigation is underway into the incident.
Majorie Villefranche, the director of the community organization Maison d’Haiti, told the CBC that she knows the teen and his mother. She contested the police’s claim that the boys were fighting, but were rather playing in the street. She also said that it seemed like the officers were trying to humiliate the teen.
While there’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered revolving this incident, one thing is certain: the issue of disproportionate police violence against people of color isn’t just something that’s relegated to the United States. The Montreal police force acknowledged that systemic racism exists after a report released last year extensively detailed discrimination within city services.
The department’s acknowledgement is a good first step to enact reform, but that’s all it is: a first step. The next step has yet to be seen.
According to the CBC, kneeling on someone’s neck is not against any rules that the Montreal police have in place to apprehend suspects. A motion that called for the end of police tactics that blocked people’s breathing was adopted by the Montreal city council – but it was ultimately not binding because the Quebec government sets the rules that police departments within the province abide by.
The New York Times reports that politicians and other activists are speaking out against the way the incident was approached after Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd by kneeling on his neck as he was pinned to the ground.
From the Times:
“This brings back memories of what happened to George Floyd, as police are using the same technique,” said Balarama Holness, a human rights advocate who is running for mayor of Montreal.
“Police need to be held accountable,” Mr. Holness continued. “These forms of techniques should not be allowed, period.”
A Montreal police spokesman told the CBC that if the pending investigation finds that the use of force against the teen wasn’t justified, the “required actions” will be taken as a result.
But the teen’s mother, who told the CBC that her son is afraid to leave the house, wants answers now.
From the CBC:
“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.”