A photo of gun-toting movie star Chuck Norris displayed on a Quebec City police van during G7 summit protests last summer has prompted an ethics complaint from a university professor.
Francis Dupuis-Déri, a Université du Quebec a Montreal political science professor who took part in the protests, said in an interview Thursday that police were seeking to intimidate and threaten protesters with the violent image.
Dupuis-Déri’s complaint, filed Wednesday with Quebec’s police ethics board, includes video of a June 8 protest in which the photo of Norris with a gun in each hand is seen posted to the door of a police van used to transport an arrested protester. Dupuis-Déri said he identified the nine officers named in the complaint by their badge numbers.
“I consider that to drive around in a van, with a photo of Chuck Norris who is pointing guns towards the public, is highly problematic,” he said, adding that the action undermined public trust in the police.
Images of the action film star are widely shared online. The Norris memes typically include absurd exaggerations about the actor’s strength and ingenuity. “Death once had a near-Chuck Norris experience,” reads one.
The image used by Quebec City police did not include any text. Dupuis-Déri says the photo is from a 1985 movie starring Norris, “Invasion USA,” in which the actor saves the United States from communist guerrillas. He accuses the police of drawing a parallel between protesters and the communists.
“It’s as if we, the protesters, we’re an invasion and we are invading Quebec,” he said, “and the police considered themselves heroes or superheroes who are going to neutralize or eliminate us.”
Protesters from across the province converged on Quebec City for the June 8-9 summit held at a hotel in the nearby Charlevoix region. The annual meeting brings together the heads of state of Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Germany, the United States and Japan.
“For me, the G7 summit is not legitimate,” Dupuis-Déri said. “It’s a meeting of the leaders of seven of the strongest countries and the most dangerous, that launch the most destructive wars. And so I think it’s legitimate to protest against these summits.”
Representatives from the Quebec City police and the mayor’s office declined to comment, citing the ethics investigation.
Dupuis-Déri, who researches social movements and police profiling, said he waited until now to file the complaint because he wanted to do it in person in Quebec City, and this week was his first opportunity. He said the timing of his complaint is fortuitous, because it comes on the eve of the trial for two people arrested during the June 8 protest.
Seven people in total were charged with illegal assembly in connection with the demonstration. Arij Riahi, lawyer for one of the defendants, said all seven were detained for four days following their arrests.
“They were detained until the G7 was finished,” she said. “That raises questions about rights to peaceful assembly, rights to demonstrate, freedom of expression.”
Riahi said the Crown announced Wednesday it was dropping charges against four of the seven people arrested. Another had his charges dropped earlier.
Two people arrested – both women – remain charged with illegal assembly and are scheduled to face trial in municipal court next Monday. One of the women is also charged with carrying pepper spray.
The next step for Dupuis-Déri’s complaint is for the ethics board to conduct a preliminary examination to determine whether to refer the matter to conciliation, to order an investigation or to close the file.