Montreal woman arrested after posting graffiti photo
A young Montreal woman faces criminal harassment charges after she posted a photo of anti-police graffiti on her Instagram account last month.
Jennifer Pawluck, 20, was arrested Wednesday morning, questioned for several hours and then released on a promise to appear in court on April 17. She is accused of uttering threats and using social media to harass a police commander.
Pawluck is known to police. She is a protester who was arrested and fined several times during last year’s student demonstrations.
The allegations stem from an image, which she snapped after spotting it on a brick wall in a Montreal neighbourhood. The image depicts Montreal police commander Ian Lafreniere with a bullet hole in his forehead. His name is written next to the drawing.Lafreniere, who is the head of the city’s police communications division, has frequently appeared in the media after students last spring clashed with police in demonstrations protesting the Quebec government’s decision to increase post-secondary tuition.
Montreal police representative Dany Richer said they were alerted to the photo after receiving a tip from the public. The graffiti has since been removed from the wall in the east-end neighbourhood.
Pawluck says she had no malicious intentions when taking the photo.
“For sure I noticed it was violent, but it was well done, so I took a photo, that's all,” she told CTV Montreal.
She said she regrets posting the photo now that she is facing charges.
Police said the picture alone is not the reason for Pawluck’s arrest. They say more evidence will be presented in court.
“It's the elements that were gathered together during this investigation,” Anie Lemieux of the Montreal Police said.
“It's taken very seriously. There's no tolerance whatsoever for intimidation or harassment towards people that are implicated or work for the justice system.”
Pawluck is active in the student movement and has expressed her frustrations about police online before.
According to Toronto criminal lawyer Edward Prutischi of crimlawcanada.com, whether or not Pawluck actively participated in the protests and has prior animosity towards the police is a “red herring” considering she was never charged.
“I suspect the police will try to bring that in but if I were the trial judge I’d have issue with allowing that to come forward,” he told CTV News Channel on Thursday.
He said the crux of the case is not whether or not the photo is offensive but whether it constitutes a threat under Canada’s Criminal Code.
“The question will be looking at her social media feed in general, in addition to the picture that was actually posted, and see whether it's the kind of thing that can be reasonably interpreted to be harassing either to him, him family or property,” Prutischi said.
He also said uttering a threat to a police officer can “no doubt” be done through a social media medium such as Twitter or Instagram but “space” needs to be given in the public sphere for “legitimate comments that are anti-police or otherwise.”
He added that because Pawluck is not the author of the graffiti, the crown will have to prove what her intention was when she posted the photo.
With a report from CTV Montreal’s Maya Johnson and files from The Canadian Press