Inspired by Mamadi Camara, 19-year-old woman comes forward with own tale of false arrest
MONTREAL -- Inspired by the ordeal of Mamadi Camara, a 19-year-old woman has come forward to accuse Montreal police of falsely arresting her.
In September, Natcha Elie was riding her longboard near L'Acadie Blvd. when she was stopped by SPVM officers.
“They continued saying 'Drop your longboard and show me your hands,' and I was saying in French 'What is happening? Can someone explain to me?'” she said. “They just came and handcuffed me. I still didn't have an answer.”
Elie was placed in the back of a police car and was told the officers believe she had a gun on her.
“I said I didn't have anything. I was just talking with my friends,” she said.
After police searched her and didn't find a weapon, Elie said she was told they had the wrong person. The officers then drove away, leaving her on the street.
In shock, Elie – who is a Person of Colour – called a white friend who had also been stopped by police. She said she was shocked by the difference in their experiences.
“They just came to her and asked her if she had a gun, she said no. They said 'You have a lot of things in your pocket, can you show us what you have?'”
When police realized the friend had nothing illegal “they told her she should go in the car so she would feel safe and they brought her back home.”
Elie said she came forward after hearing about Camara's case. Camara was pulled over in the same neighbourhood and pulled out of his car window by police. He was arrested and spent six days in jail before charges were dropped.
The Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations has gotten involved in Elie's case, helping her file a complaint with the police ethics commissioner. A CRARR spokesperson pointed out that the incident happened a few months after Montreal police unveiled a new policy on street checks that was aimed at preventing random stops based on race.
Montreal executive committee member Alex Norris acknowledged that racial profiling is a problem.
“It concerns unconscious biases that pervade our society and our institutions, including the police force,” he said. “It's not unique to the police force but it's something that we need to do everything in our power to combat.”