Quebec City police said on Tuesday they had suspended five police officers involved in violent altercations with two young blacks outside a downtown nightclub over the weekend.
The police are suspended with pay as part of an “evolving investigation” into an incident outside the Dagobert nightclub on rue Grande-Allée early Saturday morning, a spokesperson for the Police Department said. of the City of Quebec (SPVQ).
Video footage shared widely on social media shows officers punching and kicking in the snow in the face of a young black man as he was lying on the ground, immobilized. Another video shows police dragging a young black woman through the snow. At one point, an officer seems to grab her by the hair.
The young man who was arrested by police has since identified himself as 18-year-old Pacific Niyokwizera. His lawyer, Fernando Belton, told Radio-Canada that he believed his client had been the victim of racial profiling.
The Minister of Public Security, Geneviève Guilbault, asked the police ethics commissioner of Quebec, Marc-André Dowd, to investigate the actions of the police officers involved.
WATCH | Forced arrest filmed on video: (Attention: graphic sequences)
Guilbault said on Tuesday that although some elected officials and community leaders have called for an independent investigation, she believes Dowd is in the best position to shed light on what happened. The commissioner is an “independent and expert resource,” well aware of the rules governing police conduct in Quebec, said Guilbault.
“He can quote officers [and] compel them to appear before the ethics committee, and if he thinks there is something criminal in [what happened that night] he can transfer it to the EIB, for example, “she said, referring to the office independent investigations, Quebec’s police watchdog.
Jo-Kirby Olongbo is the Vice President of Entrepreneurship with The Afro-Quebec Youth Forum (FJAQ), a Quebec-based non-profit organization that works with black youth across the province.
She welcomed the news of the suspensions, but said she still wanted an independent and impartial investigation.
“It’s a very good first step, but we want more,” she said. “We want to ensure that an independent investigation is carried out by the police and all other parties [involved]. We want to make sure that Pacific and all other Saturday victims are treated in the right way. “
The surprise police brotherhood
SPVQ spokesperson Sandra Dion told CBC that agents will be suspended with pay, in accordance with the collective agreement, and that the length of their suspension has still not been determined.
In a press release, Martine Fortier, president of the Fraternité des policemen de Québec (FPPVQ), said she was surprised that five officers had been suspended and hoped that the suspensions were not motivated by political considerations.
“We hope that this decision is not the result of political pressure, in particular from certain parties which have positioned themselves in favor of the suspension of the police officers involved from Sunday,” she said.
She said police officers have a right to “fair and equal treatment” and that treatment should not be influenced by outside opinion.
Same officers, same night
Three of the police officers involved in the incident were also involved in a violent clash at an Italian restaurant earlier in the evening, the SPVQ said on Tuesday.
The SPVQ affirms that a separate internal investigation was opened into this event.
The officers are all part of a squad assigned to watch over the city’s bars, known as GRIPP. The second incident took place at Portofino, in the Sainte-Foy district, and it was also caught on camera – both with surveillance cameras and cell phones.
The man overpowered by the police in Portofino, Jean-Philippe St-Laurent, told Radio-Canada that he had been the victim of gratuitous violence by the police.
St-Laurent said he decided to speak to the media after seeing what happened to Niyokwizera later that evening.
He said he was seated at a table with a dozen friends when a group of police from the team entered the restaurant around 10 p.m. and began checking vaccine passports. Proof of double vaccination is required to access non-essential services in Quebec.
When the police arrived at St-Laurent’s table, they had one of the group members arrested because he was not authorized to enter the establishment. St-Laurent told Radio-Canada he had an argument with the police, saying they had no right to intervene.
After the ensuing fight, St-Laurent ended up in hospital with injuries received during the fight.
Radio-Canada has examined surveillance camera footage which appears to show that St-Laurent was not aggressive towards the police when he was suddenly knocked to the ground and punched by officers’ feet and fists.
That’s when people started filming. Video shows St-Laurent pinned to the ground by officers as they repeatedly punched and kicked him. Debris of glass littered the floor and the furniture was overturned.
St-Laurent said he began to resist because his survival instincts took hold when he felt helpless on the ground, unable to avoid the blows of the officers.
He said he was overwhelmed by the aggressiveness of the police.
For more stories about the experiences of black Canadians – from anti-black racism to success stories within the black community – check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.