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STM to examine inspectors' use of force after video shows them punching Black man at Jean-Talon métro station

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The footage shows a violent altercation between a Black person and two inspectors at the Jean-Talon metro station. Author of the article:

Jason Magder  o  Montreal Gazette

Publishing date:

Apr 19, 2021  o  23 hours ago  o  4 minute read  o  28 Comments The video, shot by a commuter, had drawn more than 32,000 views by Monday morning. Twitter

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The city’s opposition is calling for an independent inquiry after a viral video emerged of a violent altercation between a Black person and two inspectors for the Societe de transport de Montreal at the Jean-Talon metro station. “What we saw was shocking,” said Lionel Perez, the leader of opposition Ensemble Montreal at city hall. “We expect and demand a truly independent inquiry.

The Plante administration can’t simply sweep this under the rug.” The video, shot by a commuter and dated Saturday, April 17, depicts a chaotic scene with the person being restrained on the ground by two inspectors. One of the pair is seen repeatedly striking the person in the head before three witnesses eventually pull him off.

There were conflicting reports from various sources Monday about the gender of the person who was restrained. Several Montreal media reported that the victim is a woman. The inspector returns quickly and resumes his efforts to restrain the person in what appears to be a headlock that is then broken by some of the people on site.

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Each inspector appears to use their walkie talkies over the course of the incident. The video then stops and resumes with the arrival of Montreal police placing the person in handcuffs. An STM spokesperson stressed that the video, which by Monday afternoon had drawn nearly 42,000 views, depicted only a part the incident.

“You have to be careful with these kinds of videos because they never depict the entirety of the event,” Amelie Regis wrote in an email to the Montreal Gazette. “In this case, the inspector was bitten (deep enough) to draw blood, which led the second inspector to intervene.” Regis said the incident began when the person did not pay their fare, and was intercepted by the inspectors and then tried to flee.

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Regis said the person was arrested and faces a charge of assault causing injury.

On Monday afternoon, the STM’s brotherhood said it felt the need to clarify the circumstances surrounding the intervention. “When a person does not pay their transit fees, refuses to identify themselves, resists being arrested, flees, refuses to stop and, moreover, attacks our inspectors, we have protocols to respect,” said union president Kevin Grenier. “Of course, the images — which are far from reflecting the entire intervention — can seem disturbing.” Grenier said what’s more disturbing “is that officers who have done their job are bitten three times to blood and must be hospitalized for doing their job.”

“It’s also important to mention that the inspectors spent nearly twenty minutes before the altercation to try to defuse the situation,” he said. 

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Reacting to the video, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said the images were troubling, but that an investigation is underway to shed light on the incident.

Plusieurs personnes ont partage une intervention d’agents de la STM qui a eu lieu ce week-end. Il s’agit d’images troublantes, et une enquete commence aujourd’hui pour faire la lumiere sur ce qui s’est passe. #polmtl

— Valerie Plante (@Val_Plante) April 19, 2021

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Alex Norris, the city councillor appointed by Plante to chair the public security commission, said he, too, was troubled by the incident. “These are very disturbing images that no one wants to see, and we need to get to the bottom of what happened,” he said. “This is an incident that’s disturbing not just for the public, but for employees of the STM. You have to remember that STM inspectors also suffered injuries in this incident.”

He called for a “climate of confidence and accountability,” adding that STM inspectors will have the status of special constables starting this summer, so in the future, independent bodies can investigate such incidents. As of early Monday, the STM had said it would investigate the incident internally.

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“This is not an ideal situation,” Norris said. “Investigations are always more credible when they’re conducted by external entities.”

Norris later said the city “will be working with the STM to identify a neutral mechanism” to investigate this incident and all others that may occur before the inspectors receive special constable status. Perez said he’s concerned that impartiality will be difficult to achieve, saying he was alarmed to hear the STM divulge that the person who was arrested had bitten the security agent. “They have already come to their conclusion without an investigation,” Perez said. “The STM is judge and jury in this case.

They have already said this person is guilty and anything is justified. I’m sorry, we don’t know if that’s true. It’s one version of it.

We don’t know what prompted it, and we can’t ignore that this person is a visible minority.

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“There are serious concerns of racial and social profiling at the STM security forces and within (Montreal police). They can’t simply whitewash an investigation because of what they heard from the security agent.”

When asked about that detail, Norris said he wanted more information about the STM’s statement, adding: “I think the statement was probably issued in an attempt to reassure the public. This is a viral video and it shows the inspectors hitting the person involved.” Opposition councillor Marvin Rotrand said he found it “odd” that the STM said the person who was arrested had bitten the officer and drawn blood without offering evidence or an attribution, because such details are rarely made public in incidents between police officers and members of the public.

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“There is a widespread sentiment among minorities in Montreal that STM officers have a bias against visible minorities,” Rotrand added. “People are very aware of the case of Juliano Gray (who was violently subdued at the Villa-Maria metro station). That’s still being talked about.” He echoed Perez’s calls for an independent body to investigate the incident, saying the STM has lost the confidence of the public.

Perez also recalled the case of Juliano Gray, saying in that case, the STM’s internal investigation was a whitewash, done without interviewing Gray or other key witnesses.

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twitter.com/jasonmagder

  1. STM to examine inspectors' use of force after video shows them punching Black man at Jean-Talon métro station

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