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Montreal musician hit with hefty fine for playing in park during pandemic

Click to play video 'Montrealer fined for playing music during pandemic' Montrealer fined for playing music during pandemic
A semi-professional musician in Montreal was fined $449 for playing his conga drug during the pandemic. Marcelo Matus is planning to contest the ticket that was issued for a noise violation – Aug 28, 2020

A semi-professional musician in Montreal recently received a $449 ticket for playing music in the park on an early Friday evening.

The unemployed artist was issued the fine on Aug. 14, and claims police officers used the pandemic as an excuse, despite the fact that large outdoor gatherings have been allowed in Quebec since Aug. 5.  

“They told me ‘no’ because (with) the new rules from COVID-19, we are not allowed to play music outside to get people together,” said Marcelo Matus, who is planning to contest the ticket.

“It’s too much, I mean I’m not working. How am I going to pay the ticket?”

The 51-year-old claims he had received permission to play from a female police officer in the Parc du Portugal, which happens to be the park next to Leonard Cohen’s former home. 

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Read more: Kingston officials warn of ‘immediate’ penalties if gathering limits exceeded in the fall

Once he started to sing and play his conga with his friend accompanying him on the electric guitar, officers on bicycles moved in to stop him.

The percussionist claims officers issued the ticket after they threatened to confiscate his instruments.

“They say ‘no, no, no, if you continue we are going to get your instrument. I say ‘why, you’re not allowed to do that, we are not in South America,” said the Chilean-born Montrealer.

After he was handed the ticket, what surprised him the most, other than the amount, was that the officer indicated it was a noise violation.

“I don’t understand. It wasn’t noisy and no one complained,” said Matus, who insists he doesn’t ask for money and only plays music for people’s enjoyment.

“It’s a hard time for us, it’s a super hard time for musicians, we don’t have a place to play” he told Global News. 

Read more: Coronavirus: 3 faculty and staff members test positive at schools in Montreal’s east end

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The SPVM wouldn’t comment on this specific case but in a statement explained that in the context of the pandemic, the Plateau Mont-Royal borough was not issuing permits for shows with amplified music.

“The gatherings that would result from these could represent a problem for public health,” read the statement from police.

While Matus admits he did have a small amplifier for his microphone, he wishes police officers would have exercised better judgement and compassion.

“I told the policeman to be more equal with people,” said Matus. “I just wanted to bring happiness to the people and he gave me a ticket.”

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