Anti-immigrant group barges into offices of Vice Montreal
Published Thursday, May 24, 2018 8:12AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 30, 2018 2:42PM EDT
An anti-immigrant group barged into the Montreal offices of Vice Media on Wednesday to throw leaflets and insult reporters.
Six men, most of them wearing masks, pretended to be delivering flowers in order to gain access to the office.
Once inside members of the anti-immigrant group Atalante Quebec denounced an article written the previous week about anti-immigrant, far-right groups and how their attempts to establish support in Montreal were being thwarted by anti-fascist groups.
Editor-in-Chief Philippe Gohier said they threw leaflets on the floor and tossed clown noses around the office, while the group's leader, Raphael Levesque, left a mocking trophy on one reporter's desk.
The group left before police arrived and did not physically harm anyone.
"When they realized where our journalist Simon Coutu, who had written the article that they were displeased about, was sitting in the back of our newsroom, they went straight to his desk and handed him a trophy for being a garbage journalist and then they sort of quickly left after that. The whole thing lasted three or four minutes," said Gohier.
Montreal police said Wednesday they had not opened an investigation because nobody was hurt, nothing was damaged, and nobody had made a complaint.
Vice reporter Simon Coutu, who was the target of the group, said the company would decide in the coming days whether or not to file a complaint with the police force.
Last week Coutu wrote an article about Atalante Quebec and another far-right group, the Sons of Odin, and some of the struggles between the two camps and opponents on the far left.
The members of Atalante said they did not think Coutu's report was accurate.
"The article is premised on the idea that a lot of these alt-right, fringe right groups are currently based in Quebec City and are trying to set up shop and to find a base in Montreal right now. And we spoke to a bunch of those people who are involved on the right wing side and also a bunch of people who are involved on the left wing side and they are saying they can try to set up shop here but we're going to boot them out," said Gohier.
Quebec's federation of professional journalists (FPJQ) denounced the actions of the anti-immigrant group Atalante as an attempt to "censor the press and prevent journalists from reporting the truth about extremist groups."
Stephane Giroux, president of the FPJQ, said the actions "were a direct attack on the freedom of the press."
The FPJQ is encouraging its members to stand up to such bullying and denounce any attempt at intimidation.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about the incident as he continued his visit Thursday to La Malbaie, Que., two weeks before the town hosts the G7 summit.
"The incursion into Vice's offices yesterday is something I find alarming," he told reporters.
"It's an example of intimidation of the media that is absolutely unacceptable. The rise of far-right voices is extremely concerning around the world."
Premier Philippe Couillard also reacted and said the incident amounted to intimidation.
"This goes against freedom of expression," he said in Montreal. "What these people have done is attack freedom of expression.
"Yes, freedom of expression includes the right to say anything, and sometimes even stupid things, but we have the right and the duty to answer that."
With files from The Canadian Press.