Incident caught in viral video has Montreal police officers accused of racism
MONTREAL -- The lawyer for a man whose interaction with Montreal police was caught on camera is accusing the officers involved of racial profiling.
In the video, which was posted to Instagram on Sunday, Andy Basora can be seen wearing a red North Face jacket. Two police officers approach Basora and say they want him to cooperate with him. One of the officers, a male who was not wearing a mask, grabs Basora by the sleeve and the pair of police lead him to their car.
Lawyer Fernando Belton said what wasn't caught on video was the events leading up to the interaction between his client and the two officers. According to Belton, Basora had been walking back from a pharmacy when he saw the police in their car. The police then made a u-turn, parked in the street, and approached him.
“He asked the question that every citizen should ask any police officer trying to arrest them. 'What are you arresting me for? What did I do?' But he didn't actually answer the question... and then he grabs my client and pulls him over to the police car. That's when he told my client he was a suspect for a coat that was stolen.”
In a Twitter thread, Montreal police confirmed that the incident stemmed from a robbery on Dec. 19. Police said a suspect had used pepper spray in that robbery and stole, among other things, a winter coat similar to the one Basora was wearing in the video. According to the Twitter thread, the two officers who stopped Basora were the same who took the victim's statement in that robbery.
The thread also acknowledged the officer was not wearing a mask but said that was due to some situations requiring “quick and immediate intervention” where putting a mask on “may not always be possible.”
Belton said he believes Basora was only stopped by police because of the colour of his skin.
“Did this officer arrest everybody wearing a red coat in the month since they were looking for the thief of a red coat?” he said. “The main question I'm always asking myself when we have these kinds of cases is, if this was a white individual, would they have been stopped in the same way?”
Belton said while his client was let go after he was searched and police looked him up in their computer, he still plans to file a complaint with the police ethics committee and Quebec's Human Rights Commission.