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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Taser protest in Montreal

December 16, 2007
Michelle Lalonde , CanWest News Service; Montreal Gazette

About 100 people marched here Saturday to protest what they called the abusive use of Taser guns by police, and to demand justice for a man who died in October after he was tasered. The demonstration was organized by the family of Quilem Registre, 38, who died after police allegedly tasered him five or six times while trying to arrest him.

Police have said Registre was suspected of drunk driving when he was stopped Oct. 18. He was pronounced dead four days later after suffering multiple heart attacks.

Family members called on politicians to take a closer look at the use of Tasers by police, considering 19 people have died after being tasered by Canadian police officers in the past five years. "We want people to realize there is a real danger with the use of Taser guns," said Francine Registre, sister of the dead man. "It doesn't just save lives. It kills. We want (the government) to do real studies and not just take the word of police," she said. "I can understand using one Taser charge on a person to subdue him, but when they are using six charges on one person, I wonder if we are really trying to save a life there," Registre's cousin Evans Sanelus said.

The Registre family moved to Montreal from Haiti when Quilem was seven-years-old. Many at Saturday's march claimed race was a factor in his death.

Marchers stopped in front of Montreal police Station 30 and chanted: "Down with police racism!" and "Down with Ku Klux Klan police," in reference to the outlawed organization in the United States that advocates white supremacy. Mandeep Dhillon, of No One Is Illegal Montreal, a group that works with immigrants and refugees, said racial profiling - where police make assumptions based on a person's race - is a growing problem in Montreal. "I wasn't there (when Registre was tasered), but for me, there is no question that racial profiling happens. If you are black, brown, indigenous in Canada, the levels of incarceration, police brutality and violence you face are quite heightened," she said.

Dan Philip, who heads the Black Coalition of Quebec, said Registre's death again raises the issue of procedures for investigating civilian deaths at the hands of police in Quebec. When someone is killed or seriously injured by a police officer, investigators from a different Quebec force are called in to investigate. In the Registre case, the Surete du Quebec is investigating.

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