Violent arrest was racially motivated, alleges young Black Montreal-area woman
MONTREAL -- A Saint-Hubert woman says what should have been a two-minute walk from the bus turned into an hour-long ordeal with police—and while she claims she was the one assaulted, she is now the one facing a criminal charge.
Destinee Savy-Lewis, 24, was walking in the street around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday to avoid the snowy sidewalks, she said, just before crossing the road to reach her own doorstep.
But police on patrol drove by and told her to get off the road. After explaining she was about to cross the street at the intersection, she said, one officer got out of the car and approached her.
“I literally live right here, and I'm walking, trying to show him and that's when he grabbed my arm,” said Savy-Lewis, who is Black.
“I pulled away because he was trying to stop me, and I pulled away and I said 'don't touch me.'”
It came as a big shock, she said.
“I'm shaking as I'm saying this, because everything was happening so fast," Savy-Lewis said.
She claims she was then thrown to the ground and told she was being arrested for assaulting a police officer, though she says she never touched him.
A second officer exited the car and helped hold her down, she recalled.
Then her hood and mask slipped off, and she says the second officer seemed surprised to discover she was a woman.
She was placed in handcuffs in the back of the police vehicle, where she stayed for about an hour as backup officers were called to the scene, she said.
“I'm scared,” she recalled feeling at the time. “I want[ed] my mom -- I kept asking them if I could call my mom.”
Savy-Lewis was let go with a promise to appear in court for assaulting a police officer.
She says the incident left her with cuts on her lip and arms, as well as bruising and swelling from the handcuffs.
Longueuil police spokesperson Claudine Despres confirmed there was a police intervention and says the internal affairs department is following up with the family.
An investigation could be opened into the incident, she added.
A Montreal-area civil rights activist says he sees this alleged case as part of a larger pattern.
“We see it all over, in different jurisdictions in the Greater Montreal area, and we have to ask ourselves what triggers such a drastic and such an excessive response,” said Fo Niemi with the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations.
Savy-Lewis says she went to a police station to file a complaint, while her family is considering further action, including taking the case to the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
“I'm always aware of these types of situations, especially towards Black men,” she said, “but for me as a Black woman, I didn't think it was possible for me to be physically touched and attacked.”