It’s good to know, at a time when we’re racing to contain the pandemic so that we can get the world vaccinated, that the police in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, are doing their part — and not in a heavy-handed way at all.
On New Year’s Eve, police were called to a home where a raucous illegal gathering of six adults and one child threatened to be a superspreader event. Two people were arrested and fines were handed out after things got testy between the authorities and those at the gathering.
The rest of the adults, it seems, were let off with fines. All four of them.
And in a viral video showdown between police and the partygoers — a video which in no way could undermine the credibility of zero-tolerance lockdowns — officers can be seen taking a man to the ground and making aggressive moves toward an elderly lady.
According to CBC News, the police were called to the home about half an hour before the new year after an anonymous tip. Quebec is currently in a state of total lockdown, and visitors from another address aren’t allowed inside another person’s home.
Mathieu Tessier, who was arrested, said the gathering took place at his sister’s house. He said he thought there might be a risk of having the gathering busted, but that if anyone reported them, the police would simply tell them to break things up.
“The worst case in my head, it was … like, a warning,” he said.
That was decidedly not the worst case. This was:
Il faut que ça devienne viral. RT en masse les amis. La lumière doit être fait sur cet événement. pic.twitter.com/nnxsGcQcOn
— Nusakan 🇷🇺🤝🇺🇦 (@Nusakan007) January 1, 2021
Tessier had initially posted the video to his Facebook account but took it down. It survived on other social media, however — and while the individuals attending the party don’t exactly comprise a gathering of Caspar Milquetoasts, the police weren’t exactly going for de-escalation here.
“At some point, they had no judgement at all. You can’t treat people like this,” Tessier told CTV News Ottawa.
Beyond the fact that police didn’t need to be there in the first place, there’s always a question of context. This is a short video that begins in medias res. On their Twitter account, Gatineau police alleged one of the partygoers assaulted an officer.
“The video shows only an excerpt from the intervention,” the French-language tweets said. “The individuals were recalcitrant and refused to cooperate. The individual arrested in the video had assaulted a police officer, hitting him in the face a few times.”
I suppose for French-speaking Western Journal readers, today is your lucky day:
2/2 - (suite) : Infraction = obligation de s'identifier. Une 2e personne a aussi été arrêtée et 6 constats émis (Loi sur la santé publique). Nous sollicitons votre collaboration pour continuer de respecter les mesures sanitaires et collaborer lors de toute intervention policière. https://t.co/O6IIL1OYCc
— PoliceGatineau (@PoliceGatineau) January 2, 2021
A spokeswoman for Gatineau police claimed the trouble began when Tessier’s sister, who owned the house, refused to give her name and was uncooperative.
“At this point, the situation just got worse,” the spokeswoman told Radio-Canada.
Tessier, however, said police started the confrontation by employing tactics too aggressive for the situation. According to him, when his sister first stepped outside to talk to police, she didn’t have a mask or shoes on. His mother opened the door to tell her to get back inside and to put those on.
“The policemen took [my mother’s] arms from the house and pulled to get her out,” he said.
Tessier said he moved to intervene when he heard his mother scream and said he got between the officer and his mother.
“When I see that he was pulling my mother out, I go in the middle of them so they can leave my mother alone so I can close the door and talk,” he said.
That, he said, was when his girlfriend began filming the confrontation with the police.
“The police cannot do what they did to us. They treat us like animals, like criminals,” he said.
For what it’s worth, one individual was charged with assault, obstructing an officer and resisting arrest, and another was charged with refusal to provide information, according to CTV News. They were released at the scene and the adults in attendance were each reportedly fined $1,546 CDN ($1,210 in American currency).
The bigger question is what this did to protect anyone’s health.
Tessier, who was among those being cited for putting lives at risk for COVID-19, said that police in his house didn’t have masks on, putting them at risk for COVID-19 — and arguably a far greater risk, considering the number of people police interact with on a daily basis.
“You’re supposed to protect us but right now you don’t have [a] mask so you put my life in danger,” he said.
That’s the double-edged sword with enforcing these kinds of draconian gathering policies. If you’re taking down a thousand-person TikTok influencer party in the Hollywood Hills, great. That’s not a difficult target. Ninety-nine percent of law enforcement’s work in this arena, however, won’t be like that.
Most large cities don’t have the manpower to police small gatherings like this. Would it be better if they did?
From what one can gather, the police in Gatineau increased the chances someone at that New Year’s party contracted COVID-19 exponentially.
Beyond that, it’s a waste of resources that delegitimizes the rule of law, the role of law enforcement and COVID-19 mitigation measures. It arouses the natural human inclination to rebel against authoritarian tactics. Is this how pandemics are stopped?
I’m not advocating for or approving of what Mathieu Tessier or anyone else at the party did once police showed up. The point is they were there in the first place — and that they weren’t going to politely ask them to break things up.
COVID has made too many of us lose our sense of proportionality. We need to get it back, lest we risk its permanent loss.