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Montreal police open probe after driver pepper sprayed over honking spat

Click to play video: 'Driver pepper sprayed over honking spat during F1' Driver pepper sprayed over honking spat during F1
WATCH ABOVE: A video shows an officer pepper-spraying a black driver in the face over alleged excessive honking during F1 festivities – Jun 11, 2018

Montreal police opened an internal investigation Monday after a widely shared video showed an officer pepper-spraying a black driver liberally in the face over alleged excessive honking.

Several bystanders, including one who was filming the man’s arrest, were also sprayed during the same incident by another officer early Sunday morning with downtown streets heavily congested because of F1-related festivities.

The investigation is into both officers.

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A short video of the incident was shared on Facebook and garnered a few hundred thousand views before being taken down.

Ian Lafrenière, the head of communications for the Montreal police, said an internal affairs probe will examine what happened.

“There’s a lack of information, so we’re not taking any chances,” Lafrenière said in an interview.

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WATCH: An online video showing a police officer pepper spraying a man in his car during Grand Prix weekend has sparked an internal investigation within the Montreal police. As Global’s Amanda Jelowicki reports, some critics say it’s yet another example of police using pepper spray without justification.

Click to play video: 'Montreal police investigate after driver pepper sprayed by officer' Montreal police investigate after driver pepper sprayed by officer
Montreal police investigate after driver pepper sprayed by officer – Jun 11, 2018

On the video, the unidentified driver can be heard claiming racism and questioning why he’s being arrested for honking his horn.

“For honking?” he shouts in French as he is handcuffed and others in the video note he isn’t the only driver leaning on his horn.

READ MORE: Driving while black: Montreal police stop man to see if he was in a stolen car

Mayor Valérie Plante said she found the images worrisome.

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“I spoke to the director of the police department this morning,” Plante tweeted Monday.

Lafrenière said the video itself is only part of the investigation and that a telephone number has been provided for witnesses or bystanders to call to speak with police.

Police said officers told the driver several times to not honk his horn so crowds wouldn’t be revved up.

They say he subsequently refused to provide his licence when asked to do so.

READ MORE: Montreal couple claims they were victims of racial profiling, excessive force by police

The man’s car can also be seen in the video lurching forward, allegedly striking a police officer’s bicycle in its path before the arrest.

Lafrenière said the situation quickly became quite tense and the officers involved in the arrest asked for “urgent backup” on two occasions.

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The incident took place just after midnight and came after authorities had previously shut down busy Sainte-Catherine Street twice because of rowdiness and security concerns.

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The Canadian Grand Prix tends to attract huge crowds to the city centre and Lafreniere said police handed out numerous tickets to drivers and even seized a vehicle.

The driver was given two tickets worth $800 in fines for revving his engine and excessive honking. He also faces charges of obstructing police work and resisting arrest.

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