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Montreal, April 14, 2010 --- With CRARR's assistance, a thirty-three-year old female Arab student has filed a complaint with the Police Ethics Commissioner against two Montreal police officers for abusive arrest and fines totalling more than $1,000.

On February 4, 2010, Ms. Amal Asmar, who is studying human relations and psychology at Concordia University, left the university's downtown Webster library, which is open 24hrs, during the early morning hours to walk to a friend's house to stay overnight. She has dark hair, a tan complexion and other Middle Eastern features. She was wearing dark blue jogging pants, running shoes, a black-and-white ski jacket, a beige knit ski hat, and a Keffiyeh (Arabic scarf).

Tired, she sat down on the bench near the bus stop on Saint-Catherine and Atwater, in the heart of downtown Montreal, placed her school bag on the bench beside her, and a plastic bag containing her Tupperware on the ground. As she was searching through her school bag for her agenda and her gloves, a police car pulled up and two officers began questioning her and then asking for ID.

When she asked whether she had done something wrong, the officers got out of the car and told her that the way she was using the bench was against the law. Surprised, she asked them what they meant, to which they replied that the bench is not for placing bags. Flabbergasted, she inquired as to what law she might be breaking. They then told her to stand up because she was being arrested.

She became confused and fearful by the officers' statements and their physical demeanor. Suddenly, the officers seized her, each grabbing one of her arms, dragged her to the cruiser, slammed her against the hood, and handcuffed her. During this exercise, both officers twisted her arms up and away from her body, causing her to scream out in horrific agony, begging them to stop hurting her. The officers told her they would stop when she stopped yelling as they proceeded to frisk her. She was then thrown into the police car, where the officers continued to rummage through all of her belongings even after having found her wallet containing her ID.

A short time later, a Supervisor appeared on the scene, and Ms. Asmar overheard him conversing with the two arresting officers; he asked them why they had arrested her. They replied that they had driven up to her and that she had immediately started screaming like a crazy person. The officers also indicated to the supervisor that she was the woman who had placed a 9-1-1 call earlier, one of the officers even noting, in reference to the 9-1-1 call, the (female) caller's voice had a foreign accent..

Upon the Supervisor's departure, the two officers searched through a booklet while discussing which offences they could apply to her (and which would result in the greatest fines). Finally, after flinging her bags to the ground, scattering their contents, she was pulled from the police car and her handcuffs finally removed.

Understandably upset and shaken, she again asked to see their badge numbers as well as for their names, to which came the unexpected reply that this information would be on the tickets. Without further explanation, the police quickly drove off. Left to gather her strewn belongings from the ground, Amal discovered two tickets tucked into her agenda: one to the tune of $620 for misuse of municipal property, the other: $420 for having made a loud noise other than yelling.

The pain in her wrists, arms, shoulders, neck, and upper and lower back, as well as psychological trauma resulting from the abuse / incident, forced her to seek medical attention the following day.

Feeling that she had been a victim of racial profiling, abusive arrest, and excessive use of force and fines, Ms. Asmar contacted the Concordia Student Union Legal Information Clinic for help; the Clinic referred the case to CRARR for assistance in filing a complaint with the Police Ethics Commissioner against the two officers. She has also contested the two fines, which represent almost one third of her annual tuition.

“As a woman who sometimes has no choice but to walk alone downtown, I was more concerned for my safety, and afraid of violence, from some stranger, but I ended up being mistreated by police instead,” she said. “Frankly, had I been blond and not “foreign” looking, would I have been treated like that?”

“The two fines Ms. Asmar received are not only excessive, but they also show how the city's policy against incivilities, borrowed from New York during the Giuliani years and implemented since 2003 without any public debate and review, has been used to penalize minorities and the economically disadvantaged in Montreal,” added CRARR's Executive Director Fo Niemi.

“This incident will no doubt have the effect of compromising and nullifying the Montreal Police Department's efforts to improve community relations,” he added.

The case made national headlines. See: