Student suing Montreal police for harassment
Published Friday, August 23, 2013 8:55AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 23, 2013 6:23PM EDT
A university student facing $6,500 in fines for her actions during last year's student protest movement is filing a lawsuit against a Montreal police officer and the city of Montreal.
Katie Nelson, 21, claims she was subjected to repeated harassment by police officers while taking part in protests, singled out for fines and tickets even if in a crowd of people who were left alone.
Constitutional lawyer Julius Grey has taken up her case on a pro-bono basis and will be asking for $24,000 in damages.
The suit reads, in part, "The high frequency and the systematic nature of these events make it statistically impossible for the source of these sanctions to be anything but political profiling or a personal vendetta."
Nelson, a first year student of philosophy who moved here last May from Alberta, said he would be arguing that she was the subject of political profiling.
"Police use profiling. I'm sure everyone has heard of racial or sexual profiling. It's essentially the same thing except for someone's political beliefs or theories," Nelson said.
"We saw it a lot in social movements like the student strike where there's a lot of people who support the red square movement or anarchists, communists, anything aside from what is the norm."
Nelson was ticketed more than 30 times for actions such as cursing in public, taking part in an illegal protest and jaywalking.
She argues she was targeted by police for setting up a Facebook page that identified officers that were taking part in what she described as brutal behaviour.
Earlier this month she went public with her case, saying she is challenging her tickets in court. She said that some officers knew her so well they would single her out from a crowd and had memorized her address.
One observer who has studied police profiling expressed sympathy with Nelson's plight.
“Obviously she is targeted," said UQAM Political Science professor Francis Dupuis-Deri. "The police know her, she is targeted, she's harassed and this is a problem because obviously it seems to be that it's because of her political identities.”
One city councillor was on hand Friday, not to support Nelson's, but to learn more about the situation.
"Any case in which this type of fact is alleged should be of concern to any elected official so I'm following this case very closely," said Projet Montreal city councillor Alex Norris.
Nelson plans to fight some tickets on the grounds that a bylaw in the Ville-Marie borough renders the offences null and void.