Some Montreal media challenge police seizure of images of hockey riot

MONTREAL – Some media are challenging the police seizure of recorded images of the rioting that erupted after the Montreal Canadiens won their series against the Boston Bruins.

A police spokesman said that, when first contacted, the media initially indicated they would refuse to hand over videotapes and photos taken after Monday’s game. But Sgt. Ian Lafreniere said Wednesday they co-operated when investigators arrived in newsrooms with search warrants.

“Watching TV, we saw footage where it was so evident to see people committing crimes. .that’s the reason why we decided to do that,” he told reporters.

“Investigators went to a judge explaining the reasons why they wanted the search warrants, and the judge accepted that.”

Police officers visited the Montreal affiliate of CTV and a sealed envelope containing two DVDs with riot footage was handed over.

But the TV station also filed a letter of protest which said the material should remain sealed until a judge rules on the validity of the seizure.

The DVDs contained copies of original footage which was broadcast along with visuals that were not aired.

Radio-Canada and the CBC, who were among the various media visited, also provided investigators with sealed material.

Late Wednesday, an agreement was reached in court between lawyers for several media outlets and police.

“The deal is that police will not open the seals the media put on the material they handed over,” said lawyer Mark Bantey, who is representing the Montreal Gazette and CTV.

” No material that the police seized or has in its possession will be used in any way.

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“Everything has been put on hold until such a time as there is a ruling on our motion to quash the search warrants.”

A date to hear the motion will be set on Friday.

The Canadian Association of Journalists issued a statement expressing outrage at the police seizures.

“That’s an attack on the free press itself, a misguided attempt that threatens to undermine our constitutionally protected role as independent observers,” said CAJ president Mary Agnes Welch.

Against the legal backdrop, police continued to review cellphone videos and pictures shot by the public and handed over to investigators.

Lafreniere said the images allowed police to arrest seven more people.

He said close to 50 people have sent in images and pictures of incidents that took place in downtown Montreal.

“Some people are giving us many pictures of just one person,” Lafreniere added.

Sixteen people were arrested earlier this week, including three minors. Fifteen of them were released after appearing in court Tuesday.

While 10 buildings and one civilian vehicle were also damaged, police acknowledged the bulk of the violence was directed at them.

No serious injuries were reported, but 16 police cruisers were wrecked, including five that were set aflame.

Damage to the police vehicles was estimated at $500,000.

Monday night’s incident was considered alarming given Montreal’s win only put the team in the second round of the playoffs.

They meet the Philadelphia Flyers in the first game of their conference semi-final series on Thursday.