The University of Ottawa has launched an investigation after a Black student was carded and then handcuffed by campus security for over two hours on Wednesday for not having identification, leading to accusations of racism, racial profiling and harassment.
Jamal Boyce, a conflict studies and human rights student at the U of O and vice-president of academic affairs for the program’s student association, recounted the incident in a series of posts to Twitter Thursday evening.
After letting them know that i didn’t have my wallet on me and trying to walk away they followed me, hit my phone to the ground as i tried to record, grabbed me and put me in handcuffs #blackoncampus @ctvottawa @uottawa pic.twitter.com/yQ7C7W2A1G
— Jamal (@Jamal_KB) June 13, 2019
Boyce says the incident started after he was skateboarding on campus but stopped immediately when campus security officers approached him and told him to do so.
A video posted by Boyce then shows him being followed by campus security officers who are repeatedly asking for identification. He says he told officers he was walking to get his wallet in his office.
“If you don’t stop walking off campus, I’m going to arrest you right now … for trespass to property,” an officer says in the video.
“I’m trespassing how?” Boyce says in the video. “I’m a student that pays a lot of money to go here … you’re actually making me feel really uncomfortable.”
Boyce says campus security then grabbed his arms and waist, hit his phone out of his hands and put him in handcuffs, where he was surrounded by five more security guards and “forced … to sit on the busiest street on campus as scores of my peers and strangers walked by.”
Boyce says he was then released after over two hours without a ticket or warning.
Ottawa Police Services (OPS) Const. Chuck Benoit confirmed OPS arrived on the scene for a Trespass to Property Act violation. He said U of O campus security did not want to charge Boyce but to help educate him, confirming his release.
“This was an extremely humiliating experience that left me feeling helpless. This is not my first encounter with blatant racism,” Boyce says on Twitter. “But this wasn’t just humiliating, it was physical, mental, emotional violence. The experience let me know that black students are not members of the (U of O) ‘community.’”
Boyce concludes by demanding the university take immediate action against the two campus safety officers who arrested him and their supervisor and make “sweeping changes.”
U of O president and vice-chancellor Jacques Frémont addressed Boyce’s interaction with campus security at a press conference Friday at noon in Tabaret Hall.
Frémont announced a review of the incident by Noël Badiou, director of the university’s human rights office, is underway. It will spur recommendations for what should be done immediately and over time to improve the university’s policies and procedures.
He added the university is also hiring an external investigator to look into the incident and to examine whether larger systemic human rights issues exist on campus. The report will be made public and the investigator will provide recommendations to the university, Frémont said.
Frémont said the campus safety officers involved in Boyce’s detainment won’t face disciplinary action until the inquiry is concluded and was unable to answer whether officers receive anti-racism training.
Frémont also couldn’t say how long the inquiry is expected to take, citing the need to talk to witnesses on the scene.
“These allegations are extremely serious,” Frémont said, also emailing a statement to the university community at large. “Racism has no place on our campus.”
Boyce’s story led Amir Attaran, law and medicine professor at the U of O, to post footage of an experience he had with campus security on Twitter.
After University of Ottawa campus security carded and arrested black student @Jamal_KB, I’m posting video of security forcing into my office and carding me and my black PhD student @bumblebrie. I complained, but nothing was done about it. #racism @uottawa pic.twitter.com/23TxY8W9fa
— Amir Attaran (@profamirattaran) June 14, 2019
Attaran says the officer forced his way into his office and carded his Black PhD student. He adds he complained but nothing was done.
“When I see poor (Jamal Boyce) being arrested for refusing carding, I know I could have been arrested too, had I not let it slip that I am a law professor,” Attaran’s post reads.
The Fulcrum has reached out to Jamal Boyce, Amir Attaran, campus security and the University of Ottawa Students’ Union for comment. More to come.