from the you-have-a-friend-request-from-Officer-Smith dept
UPDATE: A commenter below has provided a link to coverage of this story by the Globe and Mail which includes more details than the CBC story linked in this post. Apparently, Pawluck had previously posted other photos of anti-police graffiti as well. This additional information doesn't make the actions of the police department any less egregious, but it does explain why they might have an interest in questioning her. In addition, she was also arrested several times during the Montreal demonstrations. Again, this doesn't excuse any overreactions, but it does at least explain why she may have been questioned at length. Her history with the police department makes this investigation about more than one uploaded photo.
If anyone needed any more evidence that police departments are casting a wide surveillance net over social media networks, here's one more story to add to the woeful deluge.
On Wednesday night, news broke that a 20-year-old “supporter of the student movement,” Jennifer Pawluck was arrested in Montreal for posting a picture to Instagram that she took of a graffiti wheat paste illustration that showed Montreal’s police commander Ian Lafrenière with a bloody bullethole in his forehead. According to the CBC, the image was thrown up on a brick wall in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighborhood. And Jennifer Pawluck—not that this even matters—didn’t even draw the anti-cop graphic in the first place.Further details at CBC's site indicate that the Montreal police are actively monitoring Instagram, or more likely, its new best friend, Facebook.
Jennifer Pawluck was picked up by Montreal police at her home Wednesday, questioned for several hours and then released on a promise to appear in court.So, this wasn't a case of Pawluck shooting photos of graffiti and being approached by an officer. This would be a posted photo being spotted online and traced back to Pawluck. The surveillance aspect is disturbing enough, but the Montreal police went even further, accusing Pawluck of "criminal harassment against a high-ranking Montreal police officer." All over a photo of artwork she didn't create (or apply to a wall).
The picture depicts Montreal police commander Ian Lafrenière with a bullet hole in his head. Lafrenière was a bit of a lightning rod during last year's riots in Montreal due to his position as head of the Communications Division. While the image is violent and could be perceived as threatening, posting a photo of the graffiti on Instagram is hardly "harassment" in and of itself. As the Vice article points out, there have been plenty of other photos of this particular artwork uploaded to Instagram.
The police (unsurprisingly) have been less than forthcoming as to why Pawluck needed to be questioned for "several hours" about this photo. Here's what the department did have to say:
Spokesman Const. Dany Richer said the concern extends beyond just the posting of the photo, but said he could not go into further details.This statement is suitably vague with a hint of menace. There may be some "circumstances" surrounding Pawluck's participation in last year's demonstrations. There may also be some "circumstances" surrounding the original artwork, as I would imagine the police are very interested in finding the creator and questioning him or her for several hours. But I cannot see there being "circumstances" surrounding the upload of a photo to a social media site, at least not to the extent that someone gets detained and questioned for several hours and released only with the promise that they will appear in court, all without being charged with any criminal wrongdoing.
“There are circumstances that surrounded the publication of this image, circumstances that we can’t reveal because it is still under investigation,” he said.
She has not been formally charged, but is scheduled to appear in court on April 17.No charges, and yet the police have prohibited her from contacting Lafrenière (can't imagine why she would want to -- and she states she never has) or coming within one kilometer of the Montreal Police HQ.
This last part is enlightening. It strongly suggests the police department fears the general population, or at least those who photograph (or create) anti-police artwork. There's no other reason the police would need to file a restraining order (so to speak) against a student whose "weapon" is a cell phone with a camera. Unfortunately for Pawluck, the "restraining order" isn't mutually restrictive. I would imagine this won't be her last run-in with Montreal law enforcement. They seem unusually interested in shutting down expression they don't like, and are apparently willing to try to intimidate people into compliance.