It's a story that doesn't even surprise any Montreal activist anymore. 20-year-old Jennifer Pawluck was arrested and interrogated after she snapped a picture of an anti-police graffiti and posted it on her Instagram. According to HyperAllergic, police officers showed up at her door Wednesday morning at 10:30 a.m. with an arrest warrant stating that she had threatened the Montreal police spokesperson Ian Lafrenière, whose face was depicted in the graffiti.
Pawluck told Huffington Post Québec that when she took the picture, she didn't even know who the officer in the graffiti was. She noted, "Many of my friends do not like the police [...] I thought it would be funny to put the picture on Instagram. I do not even know who he is, Ian Lafreniere."
I spoke with Luc Lefebvre, a co-founder of QuebecLeaks who has now left the group to become a full-time political activist and entrepreneur, who was shocked when he heard the news of Pawluck's arrest.
"In all sincerity, the whole story is absurd and completely unjust," said Lefebvre. "The Montreal police has deliberately profiled and harassed this young woman. They are tracking and surveilling her just like most active activists in Québec."
Lefebvre knows Pawluck personally and he's dumbstruck that the police force has decided to target a woman who is very vulnerable, isolated and who has struggled securing housing for quite some time. He said, "She has spent a portion of her youth being houseless ... just when she's courageously pieced her life together and starting a new job on Monday, they go ahead and arrest her."
Although she was released from the police station after a few hours of interrogation, Pawluck will now have to appear in court to face these charges.
Lefebvre says that the police has been using these bullying techniques for years, but that they could be targeting members of the student movement more since the huge protests coined "The Maple Spring" started last year. Unfortunately, he thinks the force's harassment tactics are discouraging young social justice advocates, explaining "The problem is that some activists end up being scared away and don't have the same means of confidence as others, so the strategic bullying of the police tragically ends up working."
I also spoke with Gabriel-Nadeau Dubois, one of the most visible leaders during the "Maple Spring" last year. He called Pawluck's arrest both absurd and upsetting.
"In a context where the police is surveilling more and more those who dare disrupt the order of things, it's not surprising that police officers are paying more attention to what happens on the web. What is shocking however is the extent to which the police has gone in this case. Being accused for simply broadcasting a piece of art is extremely disturbing," said Dubois.
Canada, a country that is often hailed for its progressive and tolerant stance on social issues, is also home to one of the most brutal and autocratic police forces in North America. If you don't believe me, take a look for yourself.
If taking pictures of street-art and posting it on Instagram is now considered a criminal offense then sue me ... along with the rest of the hipsters populating the island of Montreal. Give me a break, Montreal police. But more importantly give Jennifer Pawluck a break too.
What do you think of this arrest? Lame? Ludicrous? Lamentable?
Let me know on Twitter: @feministabulous
Note: All interviews were conducted in French and were translated by the author.