It was an idyllic Sunday afternoon of picnicking and sunshine in Old Montreal for Natasha Skeete and her family, until they found themselves face to face with riot police, pleading with officers to stop.
Until yesterday, Skeete's daughters believed police were supposed to protect them. Now the two girls are traumatized.
"I'm shocked that the police would do this," 10-year-old Alexus told CBC News. She was still visibly shaken the day after the incident, jumping at sudden noise from a construction site nearby.
"I am still scared. I don't know what to do."
Her nine-year-old sister, Aleah, doesn't see police the same way anymore.
"I thought they were supporting us, but now that I see they're really not. I'm scared of them," she said.
Watch eyewitness video of the confrontation (contains explicit language)
The run-in happened on Sunday, the same day that thousands of people marched in downtown Montreal to call for an end to racism and police brutality.
Natasha Skeete decided to not attend because she was worried about the risk. Instead, she spent the day by the water with her daughters, her friend Andrea Gordan and Gordan's 17-month-old baby.
They thought they were a safe distance from the rally, but when they started heading back to their cars around 6 p.m., they saw some teens running through the streets.
The rally had ended a couple hours ago, but a small group of stragglers remained.
"Some people told us 'don't go, there's tear gas being shot'," Skeete said. So they waited until the area cleared before continuing to St-Paul Street, where their cars were parked.
"There was nobody. There were people walking their dogs like a normal day," her friend Gordan said.
They had made it to Gordan's car, when a few more teens showed up, running by. Skeete said she told them to stop and they listened to her, moving on.
But then a line of officers arrived, marching toward them.
"We started hearing the pow pow pow, turned, and we saw riot police coming up the street."
Skeete and Gordan quickly got their kids into her friend's car, out of harm's way.
"As we threw them in the car, I ran a few cars up to tell the riot police to stop. At this point, there's nothing going on in the street. We have children here, they're scared and [police] are bringing more fear onto them," she said.
She said she calmly asked them to stop, explaining they were not protesters.
"That meant nothing to one cop in particular, because he went and decided to physically shove me with his shield. He kept shoving, shoving until I was shoved onto the car," she said, adding that her friend was standing nearby holding her stroller.
"I kept pointing at the car and showing him — there's kids in this car, stop. It meant nothing at all to him."
Skeete said the officer only stopped when another pulled him off.
"Police didn't do what they're supposed to do: serve and protect," Gordan said. "He shoved my friend into my rear-view mirror and then yelled at us to leave."
While police left other white bystanders alone, Skeete said officers seemed to assume she was a protester because of the colour of her skin.
"My children were traumatized. We got home and my daughter is asking me, 'Mommy is it safe now?' That's not right."
Skeete said she wants an apology from Montreal police and she is planning on submitting a complaint to the police ethics commission.
"They need to stop thinking every person of colour is a threat, that every person of colour is violent, and out there to cause trouble."
Montreal police declined to comment or make someone available for an interview.
About the Author
Jaela Bernstien is a reporter based in Montreal. She's covered a wide range of news topics, ranging from criminal trials to ice age caves, and everything in between.
With files from Simon Nakonechny
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