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Black woman says Montreal police ‘humiliated’ her, told to scrape off car tints with coin

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Black woman says Montreal police ‘humiliated’ her, told to scrape off car tints with coin
WATCH: A Montreal grandmother who is a pillar of her church community says police intimidated, humiliated and bullied her during a routine traffic stop. The tints on her car windows were darker than allowed under the law, but she was stunned by what officers ordered her to do in order to remedy the problem. Global's Dan Spector reports – May 28, 2024

A 62-year-old Black woman in Montreal says she was racially profiled by police when a traffic stop turned into “one of the most humiliating experiences” of her life.

Charlene Hunte, a grandmother and retired health-care worker who runs a local food bank, says police stopped her at 8 a.m. on April 30 in the city’s Little Burgundy neighbourhood in the Sud-Ouest borough.

She was on her way to serve her community from Union United Church, Quebec’s oldest Black church, where the food bank operates just a couple of blocks from where the incident took place.

Hunte says Montreal police pulled her over because the tints on her vehicle windows were darker than allowed under the law. They told her they couldn’t see her through her side windows. She claims she’s had those tints on her car for five years without any issue.

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“I said, ‘OK, fine. I have to go. I have to open up the food bank for the people. Give me a 24-hour citation and I will get it done tomorrow,'” Hunte told Global News on Tuesday.

What happened next left Hunte feeling “shaken and angry.”

Charlene Hunte, a 62-year-old retired health-care worker who runs a food bank at a Montreal church says she was left feeling ‘shaken and angry’ after police forced her to scratch off her car tints on the side of the road with a coin. Dan Spector/Global News

After insisting she would remove her tints the very next day, a male officer told her to she had to do it on the spot by scraping off the tints by hand using a quarter.

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“I was pissed off,” she said. “He said, ‘If you don’t take it off, I’m towing your car.'”

According to her, the officer then handed her a switchblade pocketknife and demanded she do it there at the side of the road at the intersection.

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“I took the blade. He said, ‘Start scraping.’ So I went to scrape.”

After struggling to get it done, she returned the knife to the officer who continued doing it himself.

A total of three police cruisers had converged around her car. She says she was eventually told she could remove the rest the following day and was let go without a ticket.

The director of Montreal’s Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), Fo Niemi, called the conduct from police “a little draconian.”

A statement from Niemi says the 62-year-old woman was treated in a “paternalistic and patronizing manner” by the one police officer in particular who had ordered her to remove the tint with a 25 cent coin and threatened to tow her vehicle.

“I don’t know how it would have turned out if it (had been) a Black man in my situation,” Hunte added. Hunte isn’t unfamiliar with the threats Black men face, having lost her 22-year-old son 16 years ago to gun violence in downtown Montreal.

Lawyer Avi Levy, who specializes in representing people charged with driving violations, called the whole ordeal surprising and excessive.

In his 30-year career, he says he can’t recall ever hearing of someone being forced to remove tints on the side of the road.

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“It can require some basic tools, and then a bit of a clean up afterwards. So it’s not typically something that you do on the side of the road in front of the police officer,” Levy said in an interview with Global.

He said usually police will either ticket the driver or give them a warning to have it removed within 48 hours. He said there’s nothing in the highway safety code that calls for a driver to be forced to remove tints on the spot.

In an statement emailed to Global News, Montreal police say they would not comment on her specific case but pointed to their complaints process.

“We do not tolerate disrespect, misconduct, harassment or criminal acts by any member of our staff. We invite any victim or witness of such behavior to report it to us,” the statement reads.

Hunte says she’s planning on filing a formal complaint with the police force.

— with files from Dan Spector, Global News

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