“I’m confident that if [he] were white, that interception would not have been the same way,” said Fernando Belton
On Jan. 17, Andy Basora was stopped by two police officers in front of his house in Villeray–Saint-Michel for wearing a red North Face jacket similar to one reported stolen over a month ago. A video of this incident was filmed and posted on social media, where it went viral.
Basora’s lawyer Fernando Belton explained that before the video was taken, Basora was walking home from the pharmacy with his brother when he saw a police car driving in the opposite direction.Then, the police car made a U-turn and approached Basora as he was entering his home.
The video begins with two officers approaching Basora. One officer, who wasn’t wearing a mask, tells him to follow them. When Basora asks why, the officer informs the young man that he is wearing a jacket that has been reported stolen. He then grabs him by the shoulder, brings him in front of the police car, and starts going through his pockets and asking questions.
According to Belton, the encounter lasted five minutes before the police officers realized Basora was not responsible for the theft. Belton claims that his client, who is of Dominican ethnicity, was subject to racial profiling.
“There’s the official answer from the police department, and there’s actually what you see on the video, which I think speaks clearly about the real motive of the interception,” Belton pointed out.
“I’m confident that if Andy were white, that interception would not have been the same way,” he added.
In a Twitter thread, Montreal police explained that the jacket Basora was wearing is the same as the one stolen during a violent mugging on Dec. 19, 2020. The tweets also explain the events leading to the altercation with Basora and why one officer was not wearing a mask. The SPVM claims that some situations require “quick and immediate intervention,” and wearing a mask is not “always possible.”
The SPVM police did not return a request for comment.
Belton insists that the officers in the video, who are the same officers that originally reported the robbery, had no reason to question his client.
“Does the police officer intercept every young person that they see with a red North Face coat? Which is, by the way, a coat that is really popular among the youth.”
He also highlights that the police officers violated his client’s rights because neither possessed a search warrant, which is necessary to stop someone. Belton emphasizes that there were no legal grounds for this interception other than an opportunity to profile a minority racially.
A recent report commissioned by the city of Montreal in 2019 shows striking evidence of racial profiling by the SPVM. The authors demonstrate that Indigenous people and Black people are between four to five times more likely to be stopped by the police than white people are.
Moving forward, Belton and his client are in the process of filing a complaint to the Quebec Human Rights Commission as well as one to the police ethics board.