A Concordia University student is contesting over $1,000 worth of tickets police gave her, alleging she was a victim of racial profiling.
Despite being born and raised in Canada, police targeted her because of her Palestinian origins, Amar Asmar told the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations.
Asmar, a 33-year-old human relations major, said she was sitting on a bench on Ste. Catherine St. waiting for her bus after a night of studying in the Webster library when a police car pulled up. The two male Caucasian officers started questioning her and asked to see her ID, she said. When she asked if she had done anything wrong, the officers exited the car and told her that having her bag &- a plastic bag containing her Tupperware &- on the bench was against the law. When Asmar asked what law prohibited her from having her bag on the bench, she was told to stand up because she was being arrested.
The situation deteriorated from there. The police allegedly refused to show Asmar their badges, pushed her against the vehicle and twisted her arm, causing her to scream. When she began screaming, she says she was told to stop, otherwise they would not stop twisting her arm.
After sitting in the police car and allegedly overhearing a police supervisor discuss with the officers what she could be charged with, Asmar was released but given two tickets, a $620 ticket for misuse of municipal property, and a $420 ticket for having made a loud noise “other than yelling.”
The tickets she received were not justified, according to Fo Niemi, executive director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations.
“Giving people a ticket for that amount is very excessive,” he said, noting that in similar cases people have been fined amounts in the area of $130. Asmar contacted the Concordia Student Union Legal Information Clinic after the event and was referred to CRARR.
Niemi felt that the only explanation for the action of police could be that Asmar was in a bad neighbourhood, and that it was around 2:30 a.m. when the event took place. Regardless, he said, the circumstances do not justify the police action.
“It’s just incomprehensible,” he said. “There’s a certain amount of abuse of power somewhere.”
Niemi’s organization is no stranger to complaints of racial profiling by police, but he said this kind of police action isn’t commonly seen against women and typically targets the youth. “We encounter it a lot,” he said, “but usually only against young males of colour.”