Cops have always quietly hassled kids for photographing freshly adorned graffiti and street art, the unfair presumption being that they might be the vandal returning to preserve their work. But even in that context, what happened yesterday in Canada is bonkers: a 20-year-old Montreal woman was arrested for posting a photo of anti-police street art to her Instagram feed.
On March 26, Jennifer Pawluck posted a wheatpaste portrait of Montreal police spokesman Ian Lafrenière with a bullet hole in his forehead to her Instagram. More than a week later, local cops came to her house with a warrant, which HuffPo Québec reports, "alleges that Pawluck acted with intent to harass Lafrenière and gave him reason to fear for his safety."
"Many of my friends do not like the police," admitted Pawluck to the HuffPost Québec, in French. "I thought it would be funny to put the picture on Instagram. I do not even know who he is, Ian Lafreniere."
As you can see in the above photos, the drawing on the left not only resembles Lafrenière, who's been responsible for the department's media relations since 2007, but the caricature also wearing an IAN nametag. Pawluck insists she didn't draw the image and doesn't know who did: "ACAB," the text on the right, isn't a tagger's signature, but a graff acronym for "all cops are bastards."
For their part, the Montreal police insist there's more to the arrest than just Pawluck's role as a social-media conduit. "There are circumstances that surrounded the publication of this image, circumstances that we can't reveal because it is still under investigation," spokesman Dany Richer told CBC.
Pawluck is an activist who was arrested three times during Quebec-student tuition protests. Her Instagram bio had emojis of a gun shooting a cop in the head until a few hours ago. Still, is posting a photo of an anti-police image really harassment? Are emojis threats?
Asked if she would hesitate before taking a photo and sharing it on social media, Pawluck told Hyperallergic, "I don't think so. I mean, art is art. I don't have an evil mind when I posted a photo like this."