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Canada Far-right leader on trial in storming of Vice newsroom in Montreal

21:46  09 december  2019
21:46  09 december  2019 Source:   montrealgazette.com

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Pictures of the flyers that were left at VIce's Montreal offices.© Paul Labonté Pictures of the flyers that were left at VIce's Montreal offices.

When Raphaël Lévesque stormed into Vice Media’s Montreal offices last year, was he doing it on behalf of the far-right group Atalante Québec or as the lead singer of the metal group Légitime Violence?

Crown prosecutor Jimmy Simard argued Monday that Levesque’s membership in the band Légitime Violence added a menacing dimension to his actions at the Vice offices.

Lévesque is on trial for criminal intimidation for forcing his way into the Vice newsroom to allegedly scare reporters out of publishing stories on Atalante Québec.

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“They project a hard boiled image, one of people willing to drop the gloves … and commit acts of violence against members of the left,” Simard said. “This isn’t a hearing about the artistic merits of Légitime Violence. This is a political group; they’re not Dadaists.”

Since it was launched in 2013, Vice Québec reported on far-right groups like Atalante, La Meute and Soldiers of Odin, often depicting them in a negative light. That reporting sometimes lead to a contentious relationship between Vice journalists and people like Lévesque.

Those tensions boiled over on May 23, 2018, when Lévesque and a group of masked men entered the Vice offices and threw flyers at reporters, shouted them down and published a video of the encounter on their Facebook page.

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Simard argued that it may be reasonable for journalists like Simon Coutu — who was in the Vice offices that day — to see Lévesque’s tough guy persona from his band and infer that he carries it with him when he acts on behalf of Atalante.

“When you wear two hats, you cannot chose which one people see,” Simard said.

Lévesque’s attorney contends the lyrics and persona of a band have nothing to do with the actions carried out that day. He also mentioned that the police officer called to the scene that day did not report the incident as a crime.

It was only after a series of follow-up interviews with employees at Vice that Montreal police detectives handed the file over to prosecutors. An arrest warrant was forwarded to police in Quebec City, Lévesque’s hometown, on June 18 — almost one month after the incident.

He was released on condition that he promise not to contact Coutu or other Vice reporters. The defence highlighted Coutu’s repeated attempts to contact Lévesque after the May 23 incident.

But a Montreal police investigator who testified Monday said writing about Atalante Québec is part of a journalist’s job.

“I did not order him but I advised (Coutu) not to write more stories,” said Isabelle Landry, who investigated the Vice case. “But he’s a journalist; he wasn’t obligated to not write about Atalante.”

ccurtis@postmedia.com

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