06/11/2012 02:45 EDT | Updated 08/11/2012 05:12 EDT

Montreal Police Defend F1 'Preventive Arrests'


Montreal police are defending a series of "preventive arrests" over the weekend after student groups and civil rights activists accused the force of political profiling.

At least 130 people were arrested over the Grand Prix race weekend, during protests organized to coincide with the high-profile tourist event.

Some 34 people were detained on Sunday outside the F1 track site and dozens more were searched on the premises before being ordered to leave the island.

Quebec's hardline student group CLASSE say police singled out people wearing the red square, the symbol of the province's protest movement.

Absolutely not, Montreal police chief Marc Parent said Monday.

Police had "reasonable motives" to detain certain people, but "there were no systematic searches of people wearing red squares."

Some anti-capitalist and student protesters had promised to disrupt the Grand Prix — considered the biggest annual tourist event in Canada.

But their plans to fill metro cars and block transport to the race – organized via internet postings and Facebook events –were ultimately thwarted by a large police presence in the public transit system and outside the race grounds.

Searches 'extremely worrying' for student leader

CLASSE said it is gathering testimony from people who say their civil rights were violated, and were subject to searches by officers they say hid their ID numbers.

"What we've been seeing these last few weeks, and what we saw this weekend in particular, is really without precedent," CLASSE co-spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said. "It's extremely worrying for our democracy."

Mathieu Perron, a student union organizer at Dawson College, took the underground metro to Sainte-Hélène Island on Sunday, where the Formula One race was held.

Upon arriving at the Jean-Drapeau Park, Perron said authorities approached him to say the island had been rented by a private company, and he had to return to Montreal.

Then a police officer intercepted him, he said, and shouted "we told you to leave, am I going to have to push you all the way down the stairs so you leave?"

Perron said he believes police targeted him because he was wearing a red square on his shirt.

Political profiling, on the basis of someone's views, is "absolutely incompatible with any notion of democracy," according to Julius Grey, a Montreal-based constitutional lawyer.

Profiling people wearing the red square could be compared to targeting people with a union badge or people clearly associated with a political party, Grey said.

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