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Cyclist, police share different versions of same story on Facebook

08/06/2015 03:05 EDT | Updated 08/06/2016 05:59 EDT
A cyclist says she was pulled over and roughed up by police for no reason other than her race.

The police say the woman went through an amber light, refused to provide officers with identification and was ticketed,  adding the officers did nothing wrong.

But this is not taking place in a courtroom or a newspaper article: the woman claiming police brutality and the force refuting those claims are happening on social media.

Two versions of the same incident have been posted to social media. Leelee Davis, a Toronto woman, put up her version of events on Facebook and YouTube, using the hashtag #blacklivesmatter.

Victor Kwong, a Toronto police spokesman, shared the force's own version of events on the Toronto police's Facebook page along with some other details on Twitter, using the hashtag #factsmatter.

Cyclist shares her story

Davis was cycling Sunday, July 12, on Spadina Avenue at around 12:30 a.m., when police officers pulled her over. The rest of the story is in dispute but she is claiming police violence.

She said she was biking home from the Harbourfront neighbourhood when a police siren began blaring behind her. She said she was unaware police were pursuing her and kept biking.

When the police car cut in front of her bike and demanded to know why she did not pull over, she is claiming she told them she had no idea they were chasing her so she didn't stop. She said other vehicles were similarly confused and pulled over as well.

When police caught up to her, they demanded to see her identification, she said. She is claiming she told them she did not have it on her.

She said she gave officers all the information they asked for — her name, address and date of birth — but she could not verify it because she did not have a form of identification.

The officers handcuffed her and attempted to arrest her. A video of the incident taken by an onlooker and given to Davis, who then posted it to YouTube.

The video appears to show the officers attempting to drag her against her will into the police car, but handcuffed her on the ground between the vehicle and the sidewalk.

The police searched for her identification while she was handcuffed, Davis said, adding the officer threatened to keep tightening the handcuffs the more she moved.

During the interaction, Davis said she feared for her safety and experienced a panic attack.

"The whole interaction goes on for over 20 minutes. It felt like an eternity," she wrote. "Each time they put their hands on my body, my panic increases, and I shout for them to stop."

Officers did not find identification on her, but she said they recovered her bank card. Once they found that, they removed the handcuffs and gave her a ticket for running an amber light.

Davis said after the officers left, two bystanders came to assist her and she sustained injuries.

"I couldn't stand up straight for two days, or lift my arms above my shoulders without pain for a week," Davis wrote. "The hardest thing I think has been the anguish of recalling the event ... several weeks of exhaustion ensued due to the level of panic I endured over those 30 some odd minutes."

Police tell different tale

Davis went through an amber light in front of police and then refused to stop, wrote Kwong in the police version of events on Facebook.

He said officers plainly told Davis to stop cycling. He said they interacted with her three times in efforts to stop her. Each time, Davis ignored police, according to Kwong.

When they finally stopped her, they asked her for her name, which they claim she would not provide. Police deny this was the controversial act of carding.

"In Ontario, cyclists must obey the rules of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act," wrote Kwong. "If the act is contravened, and a cyclist is stopped by police, the cyclist must identify themselves. Failing to identify is an arrestable offence."

The officers told her that she could be arrested for not giving identification, and according to the officers, she said, "go ahead."

That's when police put handcuffs on her. Police say at this point, the video began recording. The video lasts about 16 minutes and shows Davis in handcuffs, occasionally being dragged along the ground as she screamed.

When Davis identified herself, police issued a ticket for running the amber light and released her.

Kwong added three separate bystanders watched the incident and said police behaved "professionally."

#blacklivesmatter vs. #factsmatter

Davis, who is black, said at the time of the arrest she had been stopped because she was black. She reiterated that sentiment on Facebook, using the popular hashtag #blacklivesmatter. Police have countered with the hashtag #factsmatter.

The #blacklivesmatter hashtag emerged after numerous deaths of black people while interacting with police. In Toronto, the #blacklivesmatter hashtag has been used to popularize the police-involved deaths of Andrew Loku and Jermaine Carby.

In this case, Kwong said the police went to social media to "provide context." The police have done this in the past, he said, and are only responding to Davis's post.

"We totally will admit when we've done something wrong," Kwong said. "At the same time, we have to stand up and bring context to what a video shows without context."

Davis is currently contemplating what steps to take next.

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