Upwards of 100 people stormed a downtown Winnipeg hotel Sunday in protest after a video surfaced showing an Indigenous woman being restrained by hotel staff with zip ties. The outcry comes as police and hotel staff allege the woman had been armed with a knife.
“What has happened here is a disgrace to one Indigenous woman,” Garrison Settee, the grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), said to protesters at the hotel.
The crowd of protesters gathered in the lobby of the Marlborough Hotel Sunday afternoon, drumming and calling for answers from the staff.
It all stems from an incident that happened at the hotel on Dec. 25, 2023.
The video – which has been widely shared on social media – shows what appears to be hotel staff detaining a woman inside the lobby of the Marlborough Hotel. The woman has her hands tied behind her back and is crying.
In a statement, the hotel’s general manager Rakib Hoque said around 1 p.m. that day a woman he believed was intoxicated pulled out a knife and was threatening guests and staff.
“Winnipeg city police were immediately called and advised us to protect our guests and staff which we did using wrist restraints on this individual,” Hoque said in the statement.
“We want to assure the community that our only intention was to prevent this young woman from harming herself or others until the WPS arrived.”
Police confirmed they received two calls to the Marlborough that day – one in the morning for a woman loitering and another around 1:30 p.m.
“They again tried to request that this person vacate the premises as she was still loitering. And at that point, she produced the knife and attempted to stab one of the staff members,” Const. Claude Chancy, a public information officer with the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS), told CTV News.
Chancy said hotel staff were able to get the knife away from the woman and restrained her until police arrived.
An 18-year-old woman has been charged with assault with a weapon. The charge and allegations against her have not been proven in court.
Chancy said it is not a criminal offence to restrain someone under certain circumstances.
“The staff reasonably believed the criminal offence had taken place, as they were the victim of the assault that had just occurred,” Chancy said.
“The use of the restraints is justified in order to prevent the continuation of that offence, and to also ensure their own safety and the safety of the patrons that may be present.”
He said the woman was immediately turned over to police when officers arrived.
The treatment of the woman is being called into question by First Nations leadership in the province.
“It’s very concerning because of what happened to the young lady and what was really shown to the public – about being zip-tied with your hands behind your back is not called for,” said Assembly of Manitoba Chief (AMC) Grand Chief Cathy Merrick, who was at the protest.
“Why in the first place are people allowed to zip tie our women? That is the question. Who authorizes that?”
Merrick said the woman, who is from a northern First Nation community, had been staying at the hotel for a medical appointment. She said the AMC will be terminating its business relationship with the hotel.
MKO and Southern Chiefs’ Organization also issued statements condemning the actions against the woman. The organizations have called for thorough investigation into the altercation.
“There was a First Nation woman that was under distress and she felt trapped and surrounded by male security,” Settee told reporters. “No doubt she was very distressed, and that is why there is an outcry, that’s why there is anger – people are upset because of what they saw.”
That anger boiled over during Sunday’s protest as crowds of people got into the hotel’s basement and went looking through lockers to search for answers.
Police confirmed they are investigating the allegations of abuse made by the woman in the video against the hotel staff.
“That forms part of the investigation that’s ongoing right now, so I can’t speak to that at this time,” Chancy said.
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