Dispute about election signs becomes heated in Courtenay

A tale of two signs turned into a war of words between a Courtenay man and Coun. Jon Ambler just before municipal elections Saturday.

BRIAN COPELAND has taken it upon himself with signage to try to prevent Coun. Jon Ambler and Mayor Greg Phelps from being re-elected in Courtenay in this Saturday's municipal elections. Ambler objected when Copeland used profanities while confronting Ambler and his wife at their home.

A tale of two signs turned into a war of words between a Courtenay man and Coun. Jon Ambler a few days prior to the municipal elections Saturday.

Brian Copeland said he was exercising his freedom of speech last week as he placed four yellow signs on city property which read ‘Don’t Vote For’ with a horizontal black arrow facing an election sign for current Courtenay Mayor Greg Phelps.

He said a few days prior following campaigning by Phelps, Copeland told him he appreciated the lack of signs by the candidate. A few days later, Copeland noted there were two Phelps signs added next to a sign by Ambler in his neighbourhood.

“I took it as a perceived taunt,” said Copeland.

Copeland protested, and placed one his signs next to Phelps’, which happened to be near the sidewalk on the lawn of Ambler’s neighbour.

“I knew they didn’t want it (Copeland’s sign),” said Ambler, who formally asked his neighbour if he could place his election sign on their lawn. “I spoke to them, and asked for permission.”

Ambler noted his wife pulled the sign from their lawn and placed it in their garage.

Ambler said Copeland, who he had never met before, showed up at his door Sunday and began yelling at him. Ambler said Copeland returned 15 minutes later, yelling obscenities and threats at both him and his wife.

“I told him that’s not how we conduct ourselves in this neighbourhood … he was increasingly vulgar and using profane language and I told him to leave our property,” Ambler noted.

He said that, following more threats, Copeland left in a rage.

Copeland admitted he did use offensive language, but initially asked Ambler to “be a good neighbour and return the sign.”

Following a heated exchange, Copeland called 9-1-1.

“The yelling and screaming was getting out of hand,” he noted.

Ambler said he spoke to the police who handled the situation and added he fully supports Copeland’s right to free speech, as long as it is conducted in a suitable manor without obscenities or threats.

“He has a sign on his front lawn that says ‘Don’t Vote for Jon Ambler.’ He has every right to do that,” he noted. “Those are his rights and I wouldn’t step on them for a second.”

Copeland said the following day police returned to his house, handcuffed him in front of his son and placed him in a police car. He was charged with creating a disturbance and public mischief, and added the RCMP took his signs.

“They stifled me. I was so shocked. There was no explanation until I got in the car and was read my charges,” he said.

Copeland believes the arrest was politically motivated, and added, “The facts speak for themselves.

“I have the right to put (the sign) up … I would never go on private property. Why would I set myself up for that?” he asked.

Ambler said the incident caused unnecessary police effort, and added Copeland’s reaction was not suitable for the situation.

Copeland is due in court Jan. 12, 2012.

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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