Ottawa police They are criticized for their response to a student protest outside a Catholic high school over “wrong” dress, particularly in contrast to how they responded to “Freedom CaravanSiege earlier this year.
Students staged a big protest outside Beatrice-Desloges Catholic High School In Orleans during Friday’s lunch break, a day after students said teachers had called several female students out of class for allegedly violating the school’s dress code.
Protesters said Thursday’s “blitzkrieg” explicitly targeted females, who were taken to the principal’s office to have their shorts and skirts measured by — and in front of — both male and female employees.
“They had us bend over and touch our fingers to prove that our underwear wasn’t showing, and they were touching our inner thighs to measure us—which is sexual assault, because we didn’t agree,” Chloe Dumoulin said. Student in school.
Dumoulin and another student, Cheyenne Lewillier, said up to 60 students were asked to change their clothes or go home and come back with different clothes. None of the target students were male, they said, and they were also wearing shorts and sleeveless T-shirts due to the 30-degree weather.
The two were among more than 100 students who staged a demonstration in front of the school on Friday against the staff’s treatment of students. Many of them wore shorts in protest.
Police said in a statement that they responded to what they described as a “disruption” at the school around 11:30 a.m. to assist staff. They said a person was arrested for “causing disturbance and trespassing,” but was later released without charges, adding that this person was not a student at the school.
However, videos posted on social media showed police getting their hands on more than one person as they responded to a group of students who were protesting across the street in solidarity, according to Dumoulin and Lihulier.
These students were seen in the videos shouting loudly at the police, including one who was seen being taken by officers to a police car where he was pushed to the side of the car and later handcuffed and placed inside the cruiser.
He didn’t even touch (the officer), Dumoulin said. “(Officers) were very aggressive, and they told everyone if they crossed the street they would get a fine. You crossed the line.”
The French Catholic school board, Conseil des écoles catholiques du Center-Est, said they could not verify who had called the police.
A police spokesman confirmed that none of the students who had quarrels with the police were Beatrice Desloge.
The police reaction quickly drew outrage from social media users, as well as the concern of the city’s elected officials.
Con City. Catherine Keats, whose ward includes Beatrice Desloge, questioned the police’s handling of students and youth who attended the protest in light of the police response to the convoy that closed city streets for three weeks in January and February.
“After everything our city has been through recently and seeing the hands-off approach to those protests, and then seeing that happen, I absolutely believe there should have been more de-escalation,” Global News said.
“I think that as long as there was no threat to the safety of the other students, it was not dealt with appropriately.”
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City councilors and residents blamed police during the “Freedom Caravan” protests for not doing enough to quell the noise, including the constant all-night explosions that alarmed downtown residents.
Reports also emerged from local residents shortly after the convoy’s arrival on January 28 describing encounters with participants that they said constituted abuse, harassment, intimidation, and hateful behaviour.
It took an extra week of policing after the federal government invoked a previously unused emergency law until the blockade was finally removed in late February.
When pressed by Global News about what triggered their response to Friday’s student protest, Ottawa police sent a definition of “turbulence” as set out in the criminal code.
The law defines disturbance in part as “fighting, yelling, yelling, swearing, singing, or using degrading or obscene language” — a definition that Keats agrees applies to caravan protests as much as it does to a student demonstration.
“If they were only there (on Friday) to control the crowd, I don’t understand why hands were laid on anyone,” said Keats.
Cates said she has spoken with interim president Steve Bell and plans to raise the issue further with police and the school board.
The Conseil des écoles catholiques du Center-Est said in a French-language statement that it “takes seriously” the allegations against teachers who enforce the dress code, and has sent two officials to the school to meet with students and staff.
The spokesperson said the board and the school would “continue dialogue” about the dress code “to ensure a positive, healthy and safe learning environment for all students.”
Dumoulin and Le Houllier said that while Superintendent of Education Jason Dupuy has apologized to students for the way the blitz was conducted, school staff had yet to apologise.
Until an apology is offered and meaningful dress-code changes announced and enforced, students say, they and other schools plan to strike next Tuesday.
“We just want to know that our voices are being heard, and that they are going to do something about it,” Lloyd said. “Because that wasn’t good.”
— Files by Amanda Connolly of Global News
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