Content warning: Description of police violence
Nicous D’Andre Spring, a 21-year-old rapper, poet, and boxer, was illegally detained in Montreal’s Bordeaux prison when a physical intervention by guards led to his death on Dec. 24, 2022. Guards placed a spit hood on his head and pepper-sprayed him twice, but other details surrounding his death remain unclear as footage from the prison has yet to be released.
On Feb. 10, hundreds joined the Justice for Nicous Action Committee at the Roddick Gates for a march that called on Projet Montréal, Fraçois Bonnardel, Simon Jolin-Barrette, Christian Dubé, and other officials to release the footage of Spring’s killing. Other demands included the prohibition of spit hoods, the introduction of a civilian oversight board, and punitive action for the officers responsible.
“[We are] individuals from the community, organizers, activists, community organizations, friends of Nicous, and some of his mentors,” committee member Nanre Nafziger told The McGill Tribune in an interview at the protest. “We’re just looking for justice for Nicous, and those are the demands that are backed by the community [….] This is a protest that is from the community, by the community, in support of the cause.”
Despite the heavy wind and sleet, protesters began congregating around the Gates well before 1 p.m., when the march was scheduled to start.
The organizers made it clear that the footage demanded was not to be shared for sensational purposes, but rather to advance justice for Spring’s family.
“We want the videos to be released to the family,” one of the organizers said. “And I don’t want it to be running on TV, seeing another Black man snuffed out. But it’s imperative that the family see this video. We know they have the footage.”
Jordan Cassanova, a longtime friend of Spring’s, took the microphone shortly after to commemorate his life.
“I’ve known this young man before he was a man,” Cassanova said. “A man’s life was taken away, he was murdered [….] He was a member of the NDG community, a member of the recreation centre that helped with the youth […], and he was a good kid [….] [As] a member of this community, he was like a younger brother to me.”
Spring’s sister Sarafina Dennie spoke soon after, leading a chorus of “justice for Nicous.”
“All I want is for them to release the tapes now,” Dennie said. “I need justice for my brother; his life was taken for no reason. We’re really tired of being treated really messed up in Quebec by the police. Every day I wake up and hear a siren, I have anxiety. I’m tired of hearing them, I’m tired of seeing them, I need justice for Nicous.”
Dennie then passed the mic to her and Nicous’ mother, Nequette Spring.
“I bring my kids here […] for a better life,” Spring said. “But I [didn’t] know this was the way we were going to end. I have to bury my son. [To] everyone who came out to represent me, my family, and everybody, I say thank you. I am now asking everybody to stand with me, march with me, go everywhere with me. I’m just looking for justice. I need justice.”
After the speeches, the protesters marched to the Palais de justice de Montréal, chanting “no justice, no peace,” “whose streets? Our streets,” and the call-and-response “when Black lives are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back.” The procession had designated marshals who were responsible for guiding protestors and interacting with the fleet of police cars and bicycles. Organizers repeatedly warned protesters against engaging with Montreal police officers.
“We know that there is no justice for Black people, so we continue to struggle,” Nafziger said. “The justice system is broken, the police [system] is broken. So we are fighting for justice for Black lives and we will continue fighting until we achieve our goals.”
As of Feb. 14, one correctional officer involved in the fatal physical altercation with Spring has been suspended. To the public’s knowledge, the footage of the incident has not yet been released to the family.