'I'm lucky my head didn't hit the rock': Homeless man roughly pushed by officer speaks out
The homeless man who was pushed violently in Chinatown last week by a Montreal police officer, in an incident caught on video, says he's feeling lucky the damage wasn't worse.
"I'm lucky -- I'm lucky my head [didn't] hit the rock. The guy was strong," said Bader Niang.
The video went viral, showing an officer pushing Niang so hard that he went head-first into a concrete block.
A witness, the man who filmed it, told CTV News that the other officer had previously dismantled a makeshift shelter so that a wooden pallet fell on the man's head.
Police woke him up roughly, said Niang, and told him to leave.
"After that the partner of the guy [came] and push me harder," he said, mimicking the force used. "You see the video -- he push[ed] me harder."
He hasn't been able to watch the video, he said, because he finds it too upsetting.
Montreal police put at least one officer under internal investigation almost immediately last week after the video began to circulate, but now they face another, external challenge.
Now, the Black Coalition of Quebec has lodged two complaints about at least one of those officers' apparent rough treatment.
The video is so grainy it's difficult to see at first, but Niang is Black.
Max Stanley Bazin, the president of the Black Coalition of Quebec, told CTV News that his group has made formal complaints to both the Quebec Police Ethics Committee and the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
"It’s an abuse of police force," Bazin said. "If the police officer wanted to check the man’s ID or talk to him, he wouldn’t push him away. It makes no sense and it’s completely unjustified."
Bazin added that he believes the incident was a case of racial and social profiling.
Other civil-rights advocates in Montreal have drawn special attention to the case, saying they found the 17-second video upsetting.
"From seeing it, it was really disturbing, alarming, made me sick to my stomach," Joel DeBellefeuille, who won his own racial profiling police ethics case, told CTV News.
"You know, this man appeared to be thrown away... like a bag of trash, pushed away, where you see him kind of stumbling, then almost hitting his head on the block, and then being picked up and thrown again."
The irony hit him immediately that the video circulated less than 24 hours after Quebec police launched a new social media campaign to revamp their image.
"He happens to be Black. Was that a factor that that, you know, came into play? I don't know," said DeBellefeuille.
"But to have [the] different public point of view and perspective that the police are trying to achieve, it's those type of things that you just don't do."
He said the police's internal investigation also needed to take the victim's race into account when evaluating the incident.
Advocates for Montrealers who live on the streets said last week they also found the violence shocking and unjustified.
James Hughes, the CEO of the Old Brewery Mission, said that it's "the exact opposite" of how his shelter staff train young officers to act towards the homeless, in training sessions endorsed by Montreal police management.