MONTREAL (CityNews) – A video posted to social media shows a 15-year-old girl being thrown to the ground, handcuffed and arrested for not respecting social distancing measures.
The Filipino community believes she was targeted because she is a visible minority.
Now the mother of the teenage girl who was violently and wrongfully arrested in a Notre-Dame-de-Grace park late last month is asking Montreal Police Chief, Sylvain Caron, to meet with her and listen to how she and her daughter have been deeply affected by the excessive force used by police officers during the incident.
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In a press conference July 07, Lisa Sim spoke out alongside multiple representatives from various associations, calling the police officers’ use of excessive force and their decision to lay criminal charges against her daughter, “the most painful and inhuman treatment” ever experienced by a young girl and her mother.
“No mother should live through this. See her child being violently treated in such an inhumane way by the police officers.”
“If she’s on the street, regardless of the time of day, when she sees a police officer, she honestly said I didn’t think it was going to affect me to this degree but being confronted with it just in passing it caused her a lot of stress.”
On the evening of June 29th, Jia Li Riddell, the 15-year-old teenager was reportedly with a group of friends in Girourard Park when SPVM officers arrived and informed the group that they were violating social distancing protocols and drinking in the park.
The officers told them to disperse, but when Li began to walk away, a police officer grabbed her and threw her to the floor in what was a violent arrest. Li was to be charged with resisting arrest and obstruction.
According to witnesses, Li was the only racialized girl in the group of teenagers and the only person to be violently arrested by officers.
Another White girl was also arrested and initially charged with a criminal offence, which was later reportedly dropped.
“It was unfair to her that she sees all her White friends, her blond hair blue eyed French Canadian friends on top of that not get reprimanded and feeling they only went after her.”
“Chief Caron, I am speaking to you as a mother whose daughter was violently abused by your officers. As a father, you must understand what it is like to see your own child, in a video, treated like a criminal, or an animal, by those who are supposed to serve and protect,” Sim stated.
“I am asking you to come to my home, meet with my daughter and me, as human beings, and hear our story, and feel our pain. I know you don’t speak English. You may have never met with people like us before, and you may have no idea of how we live our lives as Asian women and girls in Montreal, but we want to know your heart, your soul and what you will say to meet.”
“The way the police officers arrested this young girl was excessive and abusive, given the alleged crime of violating social distance protocols, not to mention that this is a 15-year-old youth,” said Cesar Manuel, a representative from the Filipino Association of Montreal and Suburbs (FAMAS).
“There was so much shock and anger in our Filipino community which is now galvanized to confront police brutality and racial profiling because it has happened to one of their own.”
For the Black Community Resource Centre (BCRC) representative, Yvonne Sam, the incident further eliminated racialized communities’ confidence in the Montreal police.
“In our Black community, we are accustomed to this kind of excessive force by the police on our young boys and men, and now we have videotaped evidence of the violence used by Montreal police officers on a 15-year-old Asian girl. The incident just lowered the level of public trust in the police.”
One witness reported that they were threatened with pepper spray by the officers involved if they did not stop filming the incident.
“One of my biggest concerns is the idea that a police officer would threaten to use pepper spray against someone filming the arrest,” said Montreal Councilor Marvin Rotrand.
“This incident raises many disturbing issues and it shows once again why we need body cams in Montreal.”
A report from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) in June estimates of the over 10,000 tickets or charges related to COVID-19 have been issued across Canada between the beginning of April and mid-June. 6,600 have come from Quebec. The CCLA says it’s also getting reports that tickets are being given disproportionately to Black, Indigenous and other racialized Canadians.
Last fall, Montreal police released an independent report finding visible minorities were stopped 5 to 11 times more than anyone else.
Recently, the results of a public consultation on systemic racism by the Office de Consultation Public (OCMP) was released, which calls on the SPVM to meaningfully address systemic racism within the department. On Wednesday, July 8, Montreal police will present its new street checks policy with the goal of addressing their relationship with minority groups in the city.
“It’s time to pay more attention to the link between race and excessive force,” said CRARR Executive Director, Fo Niemi.
“Police interceptions are one thing, but the pattern of escalation after an interception leading to excessive force, violent arrests and criminal charges should be closely examined.”
A spokesperson for the Montreal police says they can’t comment on this specific case but want to ensure everyone’s safety, “we’re not looking into people but were looking into infractions. That’s the first thing that’s going to bring an intervention is the infraction itself. So we’re not looking at gender sex or age, but really into infractions.”
Councilor Rotrand added, “if a situation cries out proving that body cameras would be useful this one does. The city of Toronto last week put $5-million immediately to beef up the body cameras for frontline officers. In this particular case, we would’ve seen from the police officer’s perspective exactly what happened.”
Li’s mother is waiting to file a complaint pending charges.