Black man says Montreal police targeted him after he stopped to observe arrest

·4 min read
Black man says Montreal police targeted him after he stopped to observe arrest
Prodil Houanhou says he was violently handcuffed and ticketed by Montreal police after stopping to observe the potential arrest of another Black man.  (Chloe Ranaldi/CBC - image credit)
Prodil Houanhou says he was violently handcuffed and ticketed by Montreal police after stopping to observe the potential arrest of another Black man. (Chloe Ranaldi/CBC - image credit)

A young Black man is accusing Montreal police of racial profiling after he says he was violently handcuffed after stopping to observe the potential arrest of another Black man on Saturday.

While biking to a friend's house, Prodil Houanhou says, he instinctively stopped when he saw a Black man being interrogated by two police officers across the street from him near De Maisonneuve Boulevard and Montcalm Street.

"I've seen so many videos, you know," said Houanhou. "I just stopped to see how it goes, to see if he's going to be treated correctly."

Houanhou says the reason he stopped to observe what was happening was because he's seen a growing number of videos circulating of Montreal police treating Black people they detain roughly.

Last summer, Montreal police announced a new policy guiding officers around street checks after an internal study found police in the city were four to five times more likely to stop young Black people. But advocates and even the City of Montreal said the force should go further by banning the practice altogether.

Houanhou says an officer with the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) noticed him watching and stepped out of his cruiser and asked: "What are you waiting for, to start filming?"

Houanhou said another officer approached him and asked if he knew the man who was being arrested. He said he didn't.

A short time later, Houanhou said that same officer came back and told him that the front wheel on his bicycle was missing a reflector and that he would need to give police his identification.

WATCH | Montreal police targeted a Black man who stopped to observe another arrest

A video taken by a passerby shows three officers holding and searching Houanhou for several minutes, while he is pinned to a wall.

Houanhou said he asked why he needed to identify himself, at which point he started filming the interaction on his phone.

"Next thing I know, I was on the wall," recalled Houanhou.

He says officers pushed him onto a wall and handcuffed him. "They took my phone, put it on the ground. It has some scratches. I have bruises as well," he said.

"I was scared because they went so fast. I didn't expect that at all."

While handcuffed and trembling, Houanhou says one of the officers said: "Stop shaking. We don't like people who shake."

'It's excessive, it's abusive and it's very disturbing'

Houanhou said police searched his pockets, backpack and wallet, and took his ID back to their cruiser. Before the officers released him, Houanhou said he was told he'd be receiving a ticket in the mail for not having a reflector on the front wheel of his bicycle.

"I felt bullied, basically, like pretty much in school," Houanhou said of the interaction. "The only difference is I couldn't defend myself. I only had my eyes to cry."

Houanhou said several people who witnessed the incident asked if he was all right, with one person inviting him to lunch and another offering to buy him a coffee.

The SPVM declined to comment on the situation, but they said they are aware of the video and that they are investigating.

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CBC

Fo Niemi, executive director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations, says this was a clear case of racial profiling.

"It's excessive, it's abusive and it's very disturbing," Niemi said of the interaction.

"The question is if Prodil was not a Black man if he would be intercepted and treated like this," he said. "Three police officers slamming him against a wall — over what? Over a reflector missing on his bike?"

Niemi said the use of force in this case is "really uncalled for" and he encourages Houanhou to file a complaint against the SPVM.

"There's a very strong race connection to the case," Niemi said. "If this is not about abuse and excessive force, we don't know what it is."

Houanhou said he does plan on filing a report against the SPVM over the incident, which he says has left him "devastated."

"I think [this happened] because I'm Black," said Houanhou. "We need to talk about it."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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