A Black Montreal man is accusing police of racial profiling him.
Lamine Nkouendji, 24, said police stopped him claiming he ran a yellow light.
Nkouendji said he was trying to comply with police, but after handing over his papers, things turned violent.
Miriam Vaillancourt recorded the altercation from her balcony.
“Lamine saw one of the officers shuffling in his vest,” Vaillancourt told Global News. “He said, ‘are you going to spray me?’ and the officer said, ‘yeah’, and then he started spraying him.”
Vaillancourt says Nkouendji was then violently pulled out of the vehicle.
“They were pushing him against his car and they were dragging him with his arms behind his back really tight… and they dragged him all the way to the side of the street against the wall,” Vaillancourt said.
Vaillancourt says it was only after more bystanders and other police arrived that things settled down.
Nkouendji has been advised not to speak publicly about the incident, but in a written staement to Global News, he says after being removed from the car, “I cried and shouted I needed air and water and the officer said, ‘no water for you’.”
A report released in October 2019 found visible minorities are more likely to be stopped than their white counterparts by officers with the city’s police force.
The report found there are “significant, widespread and persistent disproportions” of racialized people who are stopped by police officers in Montreal and pointed to “the presence of systemic biases” linked to race during police interventions.
It included five recommendations for the police department, including creating a policy around stopping individuals and addressing the issue of racial profiling in its plans, programs and practices.
Indigenous women are among the most targeted by the police department’s officers, according to the report, which found they were 11 times more likely to be stopped than white women.
The report also found that Black and Indigenous people are four to five times more likely to be subjected to street checks by police officers in Montreal.
People of Arab descent are twice as likely to be stopped than white people. However, young Arabs between 15 and 24 years of age are four times more likely to be stopped by police.
Fo Niemi, executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, said violent arrests like Nkouendji’s are far too common.
“It’s a pattern we see so very often year after year. It happens here in Montreal, in Laval, outside the greater Montreal region it’s something that could’ve been avoided and should’ve been avoided,” said Niemi
Vaillancourt says she was unable to sleep after witnessing Nkouendji’s arrest.
“It’s still shocking, it will be shocking forever. I won’t get over it. I don’t think you can get over such injustice like that.”
Vaillancourt met Nkouendji after the incident for the first time.
“My first thought is, I’m glad you’re fine,” Vaillancourt said. “I was so glad he was OK. I also felt so, so sorry that this happened to him because you can see it’s something so heavy. It’s not something that anyone should have to go through.”
Nkouendji was ticketed for running a yellow light and obstruction of justice. His car was also impounded because police say he had unpaid traffic fines.
He has a court date set for Aug. 24.
Vaillancourt says she will be a witness in court if Nkouendji asks her to be.
Global News reached out to the SPVM (Service de police de la Ville de Montréal) but they declined to comment on the incident.
Montreal police will unveil a new policy on street checks to the public on July 8 amid calls for change.