Pride Montreal organizers say arrest at festival targeted black person
Published Wednesday, August 16, 2017 9:57AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 16, 2017 7:22PM EDT
The organizers of Pride celebrations are upset with how Montreal police handled people smoking marijuana at one of their events.
On Monday, at a "safer space" set up for LGBTQ people of colour several people were smoking marijuana when police officers entered the festival taking place in Parc des Faubourgs.
Those in attendance said there was a heavier than usual police presence around the park.
“On Monday night, they were everywhere,” said Lucas Charlie Rose of Black Lives Matter Montreal.
He said a uniformed police officer approached a black person in the crowd.
According to witnesses, the person was rolling a marijuana joint when the police officer approached. At that point, the officer asked what they were doing and they said they were smoking marijuana legally because they had a medical card to prove it. When the officer asked to see that car, they were unable to produce it.
That's when tension mounted.
“(Police) put this person in handcuffs,” said Rose.
They were led to a squad car, much to the consternation of the festival's organizers.
The smell of marijuana was pervasive that night, said Rose.
“It smelled everywhere,” he said, adding that he feels the police action was discriminatory.
“A lot of white people, myself included, were smoking around the area, like around the festival ground and nothing happened to us and why?” he said.
Jean-Sebastien Boudreault said this sort of incident, where black people are singled out by police, is unacceptable.
"I think there was overreaction and we need to look at this because we need to try to reconcile," said the festival's vice-president.
"It's our job as white people to defend the minority. It's our job to be allies to them. It's our job to speak when they cannot speak."
Pride Montreal's president and vice-president negotiated with police for an hour before the black individual was released.
"When you demand something, if it's for yourself, it's never as powerful as when someone is demanding it for you," said Boudreault.
Police should have been more sensitive, especially given recent events, said Magassy Mbow, a performer at Montreal Pride.
“People tend to forget that people with dark skin are dehumanized a lot more than we'd like to be,” said Mbow.