Video showing Montreal police officer kneeling on Black youth's neck sparks calls for investigation

A video, showing a Montreal police (SPVM) officer kneeling on a young Black man's neck, has sparked outrage and calls for an investigation by politicians.

It happened on June 10, when Montreal police say they received a 911 call about a fight at Georges-Vanier High School, in the Villeray neighbourhood.

The fight, according to police, involved about 15 young people from different schools; two minors were arrested for obstructing the work of a peace officer and carrying weapons: a bottle of bear repellent and a taser.

A video was posted to social media after the incident, showing a police officer pushing his left knee down onto the young man's neck and face.

The teen, lying unmoving on the ground, is then handcuffed by the officers. They search his bag and take out what looks like a taser. Police confirmed that the young man was in possession of the prohibited weapon.

Frantz Benjamin, Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) member for Viau says he was shocked to see excerpts of the video.

"An aggressive arrest of two young Black men not far from Rousselot Street in Montreal," he said.

Benjamin states he has already written to the director general of the Montreal police to request that an investigation be launched. According to Montreal police, an "analysis" of the situation is underway.

In an e-mail to CTV News, Montreal police said that, “although the neck control technique is not involved in this situation, it should be noted that it is part of the National Use of Force Model” that is taught at Quebec’s policing school, the École nationale de police du Québec (ÉNPQ).

“Applied in a specific context and under specific circumstances, it allows for the control of a suspect with a greatly reduced risk of injury, compared to the use of some intermediate weapons,” the e-mail stated.

Benjamin said he was pleased the situation would be analyzed.

"It is a question of transparency and security to allow us to have confidence in the police," he said. "I am pleased to see that several elected municipal officials, such as Abdelhaq Sari and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, share my request."

When asked by La Presse if she had seen the images, Plante called the incident "worrying."

"The analysis underway should shed light on the entire intervention," she told La Presse, adding Montrealers "must be able to live safely in their neighbourhoods."

Plante's administration took the opportunity to reiterate the importance of implementing the use of body cameras on all officers.

It also noted that it has invested more than $2 million to support community organizations "that do essential work in the prevention of violence among young people."

SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION CALLED POLICE

Montreal police said it had been called to George Vanier High School, because it “has been struggling with a problem of crowds, conflicts and fights, involving students from different schools.”

Officers were called to the school earlier last week to “be present and visible,” and on the day of the incident, had visited the school for the second time that week.

“The school administration contacted 9-1-1 to request police intervention because a fight was in progress involving about 15 individuals. Once on the scene, the police officers intervened with several individuals, notably to put an end to a crowd,” Montreal police public relations said in an e-mail to CTV News Montreal.

Police say the two minors were released on summons and their cases will be carried out in youth court. 

NOT THE FIRST TIME

This isn't the first time that Montreal police has been accused of using excessive force in an arrest.

In April, there were renewed calls for patrollers to wear bodycams after a video surfaced showing a Montreal police officer punching a man in the head while his colleagues held him down.

The altercation took place at Jeanne Mance Park, in the Plateau Mont-Royal borough, after officers approached the man because he was allegedly drinking alcohol.

"They asked him to stop...he continued," said spokesperson David Shane. "When they went to intervene with him, he adopted a combat position."

In 2018, a video caught Montreal police officers slamming a woman against the trunk of cruiser and striking her in the back of the head.

At the time, the officers claimed she was acting aggressively under the influence of drugs.

Also that year, Montreal police were accused of using excessive force in the arrest of a Haitian man, resulting in his death.

A video, taken by a neighbour in the apartment building, shows officers using several projectiles and a taser to restrain him.

He was later declared dead at the hospital.

- With files from CTV News Montreal's Gabrielle Fahmy