Justice for Nicous D’André Spring
“He was passionate about enjoying life, he never wanted to miss out on good moments. He had his music, his friends and his family and he kept them really close. He was just a happy man.”
This is how Nicole Celleste George remembers her late friend Nicous D’André Spring. The pair met while George was in a group home and have remained inseparable ever since. “Anywhere I went I had to bring him with me,” she said. Aside from giving the best hugs and having the brightest smile, George said his legacy will live on through the rap music he published under the stage name “YK Lyrical.”
The 21-year-old Black Montrealer was pronounced dead on Dec. 25. He died shortly after being pepper sprayed and forced to wear a spit hood at Montreal’s Bordeaux detention centre the day prior, explained George. The simultaneous use of two distinct intervention strategies was a practice that former Montreal police officer and specialist in crisis interventions Michael Arruda said he was “very concerned” about. Spit hoods have also been widely criticized by human rights activists for being torture devices that seek to dehumanize victims.
At the time of his death, Spring had been illegally detained as a judge had ordered his release on Dec. 23.
If the death of yet another Black man at the hands of a systemically racist so-called justice system was not enough, the media added insult to injury in its portrayal of Spring. Family and friends of Spring are left asking journalists to do Spring justice, a demand that George requested from The Link.
Journalists are responsible for presenting the facts and ensuring ethical reporting—yet, they have failed again. It is no surprise that marginalized communities and the public as a whole are skeptical of mainstream media’s practices.
Since his death, large media outlets have focused on publishing the first story rather than being the one to tell the real story. In doing so, they have not only resorted to the familiar practice of vilifying the victim but have also neglected the main purpose of this story: a young man’s avoidable death.
Reports of Spring’s death are plagued with inaccuracies. There are several contradicting accounts of what occurred. It is still unclear whether Spring was pepper sprayed once, twice or thrice.
Most upsetting of all, however, is the way journalists have portrayed Spring. George told The Link that journalists from larger outlets disgraced her friend, oftentimes humiliating him and painting him as a criminal.
Journalists are taught to be sensitive in their reporting and recognize which details are not worth mentioning. Listing the crimes that Spring was in a detention centre for is futile, as he was not only illegally detained, but his alleged crimes do not justify his death.
Dwelling on Spring’s alleged lack of cooperation prior to his death causes immense harm, as it attempts to paint a picture and justify his death. Including such details is redundant, harmful and alienates the public from the media.
Journalists are storytellers tasked with the reporting of facts. A young black man died unexpectedly due to malpractice while illegally detained. Spring, who George confirmed had no pre-existing medical conditions, never made it home for Christmas. That fact alone is newsworthy.
And the ultimate disrespect is the media’s repeated mispronunciation of Nicous (pronounced “Ni-kiss”) in the various audio and video reports of the incident. As journalists, the first question we are advised to ask is the pronunciation of one’s name. We owe it to the victim’s family and friends to do the bare minimum and say his name correctly.