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The YouTube video shot in a Vancouver Island town shows three white men pummelling a downed black man while screaming a reviled racial epithet.

But B.C. Provincial Court heard one of the three men on trial for assault say he doesn't much like the term and the trio probably should never have got out of their car on that day last July.

The YouTube video went viral on the Internet after a witness shot it from his balcony while the attack went on below.

It later prompted an anti-racism rally in the town of Courtenay, B.C.

During the trial this week, the judge hearing the case without a jury watched videotaped interviews between an RCMP officer and the three accused friends.

"What kind of racial slurs [were yelled?]" asked Constable Trevor Busch in one videotaped interview.

"Nigger," answered Adam Huber, adding he was not the one who yelled the word.

"I don't like the word myself," he said. "We're just a couple of roofers ... [the incident]was blown way out of proportion."

Mr. Huber admitted the group "probably really should have kept driving."

But his friend, David White, 19, told Const. Busch that 39-year-old Jay Phillips called him and his friends "pussies."

"He wanted to take us all. ... We called him some racial slurs," Mr. White said.

Mr. Phillips has testified all three men taunted him with the slur.

He said he was on his way to the gym on July 3, 2009, when a truck pulled out of a fast food drive-through. The verbal assault began as the vehicle made its way onto the street, he said.

"'You fucking nigger. We're going to come back and kill you and your whole fucking family,"' he recounted when Crown lawyer Bob Richardson asked what the men in the truck had said.

Robert Rogers told Const. Busch in his interview that he and his friends had been tubing down the Puntledge River earlier in the day and had stopped for burgers.

The fight began when Mr. White, who was sitting on the back of the truck, yelled to the other two that someone had "thrown a burger or a burrito something at the truck," Mr. Rogers told Const. Busch.

The group drove across the street to meet Mr. Phillips, whom Mr. Rogers said was angry and wanted to fight.

"He kept calling us on. ... Once he kept egging us on, Dave tried to throw a wild kick at him. I rushed up, in the heat of the moment I hit him three or four times, and maybe kicked him once."

He admitted to Const. Busch on the video that "something got said that shouldn't have," but could not remember hearing the word nigger.

The YouTube video, which was recorded after the encounter was initiated, shows Phillips bobbing and weaving in a boxing style as three men converged on him. At one point, Phillips stumbles and the three men begin raining down blows as Phillips crouches, covering his head.

He regains his stance and the four continue to circle in what looks like a parking lot before arriving cars appeared to break up the situation.



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Doug Marion, the lawyer for Mr. Rogers, asked him about his boxing and gym training, but Mr. Phillips denied a suggestion that he was a serious fighter.

Mr. Phillips told court the three men lunged at him like hyenas and he felt he had to stand his ground.

He suffered cuts and bruises and eventually received stitches for a cut over his eye.

Defence council also questioned Mr. Phillips's background, inquiring about his criminal record, which includes possession of narcotics and breach of undertaking in 1999 and an April 2000 robbery charge.

Tom Marino, the lawyer for Mr. Huber, suggested Mr. Phillips used the incident as an anti-racism platform in the Comox Valley.

"I'm suggesting there were just people yelling and screaming and things got out of hand. There's no racial motivation whatsoever," said Mr. Marino.

"I disagree 100 per cent," replied Mr. Phillips.

Judge Peter Doherty also heard testimony from a news videographer who interviewed the three accused shortly after the incident.

In the video, the three are unidentified and interviewed with their backs to the camera, hoodies over their heads.

"If we offended [people]with words, we're sorry," said one. "We're not racists ... we're just pissed off."

"We may have taken [the fight]too far ... three on one ... we usually fight one on one," said another of the trio.

A date for closing arguments will be set on Thursday.

If the three are convicted, the Crown will decide then whether to argue that the assault should be considered a hate crime.

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