He says he was sitting at home with a girl friend Thursday morning when they let themselves into his apartment on Westmorland Street.
A woman addressed him: “Charles, I have a search warrant to enter your residence and search your residence, signed by Judge Mary Jane Richards… and you are under arrest for libel.”
He didn’t understand. Wasn’t libel a civil offence? Why were they taking him away in handcuffs?
He says they confiscated his computer and modem too.
“I guess the blogging is all over,” he said at the end of a YouTube video that was taken after he returned from spending six hours in jail.
He looked defeated, like someone had taken away the only thing that mattered to him.
Fredericton police couldn’t confirm the arrest of Charles LeBlanc Thursday morning because charges have yet to be made. But police did say they entered a home in the downtown area Thursday morning and arrested one male adult in connection with an ongoing investigation into libel charges.
LeBlanc says they’re against a police officer he can’t name and is scheduled to appear in court April 20.
Many people are speaking up and commenting on LeBlanc’s blog and on online articles and saying police went too far; that least of all, they shouldn’t have taken LeBlanc’s computer.
Are they right? Or was something like this finally necessary?
Local blogger Charles LeBlanc is notorious for stirring things up. I first heard about him in my second-year journalism class, when our professor referred to him as a valued news source.
He’s what some would call a citizen journalist, always out looking for social or political things to write about.
Sometimes his material, like the video from the point-and-shoot camera he always has on him, is the only material available. That definitely makes him valuable.
But there are people out there who don’t see LeBlanc that way. Instead, they see him as a loudmouth and a nuisance, only on the scene to cause trouble for the police.
And he has been at the centre of some “trouble.”
LeBlanc has been charged for violating the city’s bylaw that forbids riding a bicycle on the sidewalk; he has also been charged with disturbing the peace after using a bullhorn outside the Fredericton police station. He did time for that one.
He has been banned from the Fredericton legislature’s grounds since June 2006. And was arrested at a business conference in Saint John the same month, a case he ended up winning.
LeBlanc openly calls local politicians fascist and his blog is smeared with comments deeming the members of the Fredericton Police Force “racists.”
Back in October, LeBlanc specifically talks about one police officer, who, according to LeBlanc, wanted to keep him in custody during one of his trials.
“This racist cop has tattoos all over his body,” LeBlanc’s blog reads. “Maybe he has connection in the Jail system to have this Blogger harm???”
LeBlanc says his arrest Thursday was for charges in connection with criminal defamation against a police officer.
Defamation – especially the criminal kind – is a serious offense. Next to plagiarism, it’s one of the biggest no-no’s in the journalism world. So one has to wonder: If Charles LeBlanc wants to be treated like other journalists, how can he get off calling people racist?
But one has to wonder if there’s a certain freedom that comes with being a blogger, especially when it comes to being LeBlanc. He does do some good work, after all. Still, there are defamation laws everyone has to follow.
Calling someone a racist, whether that’s connected to the charge LeBlanc faces on April 20 or not, shouldn’t be taken lightly. Racism is still a very real thing in today’s world and you better have serious grounds before labelling someone racist.
But why now? Why, after all this time, after countless name-calling games, is LeBlanc facing charges of libel? Are there legitimate reasons for taking his computer and modem rather than shutting down his website, or are people just fed up with all the Charles-isms?
Somewhere, buried within the legal and journalistic issues, is a broader one – tolerance. Both LeBlanc and the police need to reflect on that.
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