A Montreal woman is suing the city and two of its police officers for $700,000 in damages because she says a violent arrest four years ago left her with permanent injuries.
The incident dates back to November 2014, when Majiza Philip was leaving the Olympia Theatre with a friend, after attending a rap concert.
The friend, Shayne O’Brien, was arrested for being drunk and Philip was arrested shortly after for trying to communicate with him.
Max Silverman, who is representing Philip in the civil lawsuit, announced the legal action during a press conference in Montreal on Tuesday.
Silverman said that Philip had retrieved her friend’s jacket and was trying to let him know she would be following him to the police station when she was “brutally arrested.”
“She approached the vehicle where her friend was being held and knocked on the window to indicate her arrival to her friend,” Silverman said. “It’s at that moment, knocking on the window, two police officers intervened.”
According to the claim, the arrest left Philip with permanent injuries. She suffered a fractured humerus, and now has a seven-inch scar with a metal plate and six metal screws in her arm.
Those are the visible scars.
Philip says she continues to struggle on a daily basis.
“I suffer from PTSD. I take medication for anti-anxiety day to day,” she said. “It’s been hard because I’m extremely afraid of police when I see them.”
Eight months after the arrest, Philip learned she was being charged with four criminal counts: two for assault, one for resisting arrest, and another for obstructing justice.
Philip was acquitted, and the trial raised questions as to why she was arrested in the first place.
Silverman, quoting court documents, said the judge, after hearing the testimony of the police officers, was at a loss to explain why she was arrested.
“Having heard the testimony of the police officers, the court hasn’t got the slightest idea what the grounds were for Philip’s arrest,” wrote Justice Katia Mouscardy in the December 2017 decision.
For Philip, the lawsuit is about much more than financial compensation.
“Once I was acquitted of all the charges put against me, I was under the impression that because the judge ruled that the officers had no motive, I assumed that somehow they would be accountable afterwards,” she said. “Unfortunately, that trial was just to clear my name.”
By launching a civil lawsuit, Philip hopes the city will hold its officers accountable for their actions.
“I just wanted these officers to be accountable for their actions because they are people just like I am and they assaulted me,” she said.
Philip is also hoping for change.
“I really hope that after today, maybe the mayor or even the city will start considering new options and new routes in terms of dealing with police brutality.”
In addition to the lawsuit, Philip — with support from the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations — will be filing a new complaint with the Police Ethics Commissioner in regards to police testimony during the 2017 criminal trial.
Two previous complaints have been dismissed.
Montreal police said it would not comment on the lawsuit as it was before the courts.
Global News reached also reached out to the city, but has yet to hear back.