Jennifer Pawluck (photo provided by Pawluck to Hyperallergic), and the street art photo that landed Jennifer Pawluck in hot water with Montreal police.

Jennifer Pawluck (photo provided by Pawluck to Hyperallergic), and the street art photo that landed Jennifer Pawluck in hot water with Montreal police.

20-year-old artist Jennifer Pawluck was arrested Wednesday morning at 10:30am after posting a picture of anti-police street art on her Instagram feed a few days before.

“Many of my friends do not like the police,” Pawluck told the Huffington Post Québec in French. “I thought it would be funny to put the picture on Instagram. I do not even know who he is, Ian Lafrenière.”

Pawluck took the photo in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood of Montreal, where she lives, and police arrived early yesterday with a warrant accusing her of uttering threats to the Montreal police spokesperson Ian Lafrenière.

The photo in question depicts a hand-drawn image of Ian Lafrenière with a gunshot wound to the head flanked by the words “Ian Lafrenière” and “ACAB” — a popular graffiti acronym that stands for “all cop[per]s are bastards.”

According to what she told the Huffington Post, Pawluck was brought to the police station and detained for nearly four hours. The arrest warrant alleges that Pawluck acted with intent to harass Lafreniere and gave him reason to fear for his safety.

Last night, La Presse newspaper reported that a police spokesperson made the following statement: “What I can say is that a person has been arrested this morning in connection with threats on the internet. This person was met by investigators.”

Hyperallergic reached out to Pawluck via Facebook to ask about the incident. She indicated that she has not closed her Instagram account and was not asked to remove the controversial image. She also does not know who made the original street art work.

Asked if she will hesitate next time before taking a photo and sharing it on social media, Pawluck replied, “I don’t think so. I mean, art is art. I don’t have a evil mind when I posted a photo like this.”

Asked why she thinks the Montreal police targeted her, she replied, “I don’t think that, it’s just ridiculous. A ridiculous story about a photo on my Instagram.”

Her trial date is set for April 17, but until then Pawluck must not come within one kilometre (~1,000 yards) of police headquarters or Lafrenière’s home.

The incident is sure to cause concern for social media users across the continent. This incident comes on the heels of a report last week by DNAinfo that explained that the New York Police Department is using Facebook and Instagram photos to track criminals.

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

30 replies on “Woman Arrested for Instagramming Street Art”

  1. ”criminals” should have been written this way cause it’s very relative, posting a picture vs. being a real criminal…

  2. She didn’t just post a picture. She put as many tags on it as she could that related to him and the police. Should they not investigate threats? because this is what a threat would look like. Practically sending it to their inbox.

    1. I agree. I mean arresting her (and taking her to trial!?) was a stupid knee-jerk move, but she did include lots of tags. It’s not so much the police keeping track of every single social media post that floats around the internet, but monitoring things that mention them. It’s what any organization with social media platforms do, not just the police. And if they thought it was a threat, they had a right to investigate. Question her at the very least. But how in hell did they manage to actually charge her?

      1. I’m assuming the issue (from the authorities point of view) wasn’t that she reposted an image of someone’s street art, I presume. As these new online methods of language (hash tagging, et al) become commonplace and accepted communication, in a legal sense, then they should be investigated in the same way as any other written or verbal threat. How far and to what extent that investigation reached or needed to involve, however, is another story.

    2. She tagged it with two different spellings of Lafrenière’s name. I don’t know what that says to you, but to me it says that she doesn’t know who he is well enough to be able to direct a threat against him.

      Of course, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people in Montreal who dislike many of the things the police have been doing there of late. Maybe some of them search social media for stuff like this, and knowing this, Pawluck included as many tags as possible in order to help *them* find it.

  3. She says she doesn’t know who the chief of the Montreal police is yet lives there and identifies as Anarcommie. That’s absurd, Hyperallergic, but you let it pass. If you’re going to wade into political stories, try not to act as someone’s mouthpiece. That said, it’s one thing to question someone who has a good chance of providing leads, quite another to use unwarranted (despite the warrant) prosecution to silence speech. Thank you for drawing attention to incipient fascism.

      1. Anarcommie is her Instagram user name, not a tag, and she professes to be “Activist, AntiFa, AntiRascist, AntiSexism” on her profile. I took Tim Slater’s point to be that for someone who lives in Montreal, and says that she is those things, it is not really credible to profess an ignorance of LaFreniere’s identity/role. I tend to agree. But also think that a promoting photo of an image is not tantamount to making the statements that the original image makes (or not).

        1. She’s 20 years old. And I’m not sure why cops would be antagonist with an antisexist, antiracist, antifascist. Sounds like they should be on the same side. Also, in Montreal being a commie, or communist, is not a bad thing. It is a province with very socialist policies. One comment from some one on Facebook made a lot of sense, it appears to be a problem with the police dept in Montreal.

        2. Montrealer here. I’m 25, and would describe myself as reasonably active in the student protests last year. Went to quite a few marches, designed lots of posters, etc for the cause. And until this whole thing erupted, I had 0 idea who Ian was.

          I guess it might be more obvious to those who watch television news more often? But I had never even seen his face. It’s possible I’ve read his name in stories and just never retained it, but I really don’t think its a stretch that she may not have known who he was.

          And also, like Hrag said below, in Montreal activism is common among the youth. Some marches last year attrached upwards of 300,000 people. Our province takes pride in political involvement, so it’s incorrect to paint her as an extremist in any way because of these views, they’re pretty mainstream here.

    1. He’s not the police chief. He’s one of the main spokesmen for the Police force. I’m not sure if he does work in both French and English, but it is possible to not know who he is. My guess is that most Montrealers don’t.

  4. I hope the police investigate if there’s a picture of me or hrag with a bullethole painted on our head on the wall or the net.

  5. I have little love for the po-lice, however am a bit confused as to how the young woman would be able to tag the pic #ianlafreniere when the street art piece in question that she photographed was torn at the time of the picture and only says Ian …reniere. ?

    1. That’s a good point but as you see she tagged two versions of the name. Perhaps part of the work was on the floor and not fully decipherable? I will ask her. Thank you.

      1. While I’m taken aback at this extreme action on the part of the police, I am rather surprised at her professed ignorance.

        I’m sorry, but there are Montrealers who DON’T know (of) Ian LaFreniere – Montreal PD’s spokesperson? Colour me shocked as a Montrealer.

  6. they arrested her and all she did was post it ??? you gotta be fucking kidding me ?
    now we have the internet police for Christ sakes ! ACAB !

  7. This makes no sense, why not target the person that did the artwork? It’s ridiculous that such a liberal place could use a young girl as an example for what? Promoting creativity? Freedom of expression?

    At least canadians should be glad that, apparently, crime is low in Montreal…Since the police is occupied with meaningless threats.

    Here in Rio de Janeiro we could use some actual police work…for true crime.

  8. arrested for posting a photo of street art


    looks like intimidation –both of her and as a lesson to others

  9. Le Quebecois are known throughout North America for having no sense of humor. Especially the bureaucrats.

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