For laughing out loud

Tayana Jacques and Brian Mann

When next you visit Montreal, be careful how you laugh.

If you laugh too loudly, you could end up having to pay $444.

            And that is no laughing matter

            Not for Tayana Jacques, a black woman of Haitian descent, and her white boyfriend, Brian Mann.

According to media reports, the couple was walking on Saint-Laurent Boulevard, near Jacques’ home, on their way to get breakfast on the morning of April 7 last.

They were chatting and laughing loudly when they say two police officers pulled up beside them and told  them that they were being too loud. Mann, the executive director of Concordia University Television (CUTV), said he asked the officers if there was a law against talking and laughing. They said they would decide what defines too loud, Mann said.

Saying she was fearful of their aggressive tone, Mann’s girlfriend, turned around to walk to her nearby home. The officers jumped out of the car and threw her against the hood of their vehicle, she said, then roughly searched and handcuffed her, and would not say why there were arresting her.

Once in the police cruiser, they asked her several times how many drugs she had taken, and if she was a drug addict. They seemed surprised to learn she had a good job and spoke English and French fluently, said Jacques, a web developer.

Speaking at a news conference on Saturday organized by the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), Mann said he asked the police officers why they were arresting his girlfriend, and was told he would be arrested shortly.

Two more police cars arrived, and Mann said three officers ran toward him, grabbed his arms, kicked him in the back of the knee, punched him in the face and knocked him to the ground. Handcuffed and restrained by his legs, he was then pepper sprayed, he said. As a result of the arrest, he suffered torn ligaments in his shoulder, and has reduced sensation in the back of his left hand.

Mann’s girlfriend was issued a $444 ticket for making excessive noise and released. Mann was given a similar ticket and released.

The couple plans to file complaints with the Montreal police’s ethics board and the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

They alleged Montreal police racially-profiled them, and used excessive force during the arrest.

“Honestly, I don’t think this could have happened if I was a white woman who had been walking down the street with her boyfriend,” Jacques said.