A black family from the South Shore community of Brossard is accusing Longueuil police of racial profiling and abusive behaviour.
Nathan Picard, 19, and his stepbrother Terell Jacobs, 17, say police stopped them, grabbing them and asking for i.d. as they were crossing in the middle of the street heading home from the Panama bus station at 1 a.m. last month
Picard told a news conference that police first approached them in their cruiser asking in French how they were doing. He said moments later, the police car suddenly pulled up to them, lights flashing, screeching to a halt and blocking their path.
Picard said police threw them both against the car and demanded identification.
"I kept saying, 'What did I do?", and he hit me in the back of the neck," Picard said.
He said he told the officer that was an assault and repeated his question. Picard said that's when the officer grabbed him, flipped him and threw him onto the ground.
"After that I didn't say anything because I was scared, I thought he was going to do something else to me."
Picard said another officer threatened his stepbrother with pepper spray after asking what was happening. Three other police cars had arrived by then, Picard said.
Picard said police finally told them they were arrested for jaywalking, handcuffed them and brought them to their home.
Their mother, Dominique Jacobs, claims police barged into their house, looked around with a flashlight and wouldn't answer their questions. Jacobs said her questions prompted the officer to say, "Calm the f*** down," and her demand for their names and badge numbers as she was giving the officer a pen and paper was met with, "Wait, shut the f*** up, I'm writing."
Jacobs said there is no question all of this was racially motivated.
"There were 20 other people at the bus station, nobody else was looked at, it was just my two boys that were looked at because they are black and they had a hoodie and a hat and a backpack, and there must be something happening at one in the morning with them being there and looking like that," Jacobs said.
Jacobs said she and her family felt humiliated and violated and her boys no longer take the bus late at night. They say they know there are good police officers but are now wary of them.
Judith Austin, president of the South Shore Black Community Association, said the situation is shocking.
"It has changed who they are and it's unacceptable," Austin said.
The family wants the mayors of Brossard and Longueuil to denounce the incident. They're also contesting the tickets for jaywalking and obstruction of justice the young men received. As well, they're filing a complaint with the police ethics committee.
The anti-racism lobby group CRARR, Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, is helping the family with the paperwork, Executive director Fo Niemi said the case is similar to the 2010 one of a black South Shore man who was stopped by police as he was driving his family in his SUV because they were suspicious that a black man was driving a car registered to someone with a Quebecois-sounding name.
Longueuil police say they are looking into the incident.
Dominique Jacobs said it was important to speak out about this.
"I feel that what was done was unacceptable and I feel they should be held accountable and I would like racial profiling to stop."