Video of violent Montreal Metro arrest sparks protest, questions about power of ticket inspectors

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People take part in a demonstration against police brutality and racial profiling in Montreal on Sunday.  (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press - image credit)
People take part in a demonstration against police brutality and racial profiling in Montreal on Sunday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press - image credit)

More than 200 Montrealers gathered at Jarry Park and marched through the streets to Jean-Talon Metro Sunday to denounce police brutality and racial profiling by authorities.

The protest came one week after video of a violent arrest in the Metro station went viral.

The cellphone video shows two transit inspectors wrestling and punching a woman. Montreal's transit authority, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), opened an investigation after the video began circulating widely on social media.

The woman in the video hasn't spoken publicly, but organizers with the Black Lives Matter movement say she is a Black transgender woman.

At Sunday's demonstration, participants pointed to the video to raise concerns about new powers STM inspectors will be granted this summer.

The inspectors will have special constable status, meaning they can arrest anyone suspected of a crime and access databases normally reserved for police.

"At a time when we're talking about defunding the police or repressive forces, we seem to be going in completely the other direction," said protestor Renzel Dashington, also a noted Quebec comedian.

"I think we need to manage what we're not doing very well before we get into other things."

Protester Yasmeen Naim said she is concerned the new powers will lead to increases in racial profiling and police brutality.

"We have severe racial inequality here, like everywhere else, and that needs to be addressed," said Naim. "There's not enough accountability in the police force."

The STM said the woman in the video was initially stopped by inspectors because they saw her pass through the turnstiles at Jean-Talon Metro station without paying. The authority said the woman then refused to comply or identify herself.