The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

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Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL: black_rod_usher@yahoo.com

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Today's Topic: Attention All Newsrooms

Memo to newrooms: if you're waiting for an official police news release, it's going to look something like this:

There's a gang war going on in the heart of the North End.

At least that's if you consider drive-by shootings and firebombed houses as evidence.

In a two-week period we counted two homes on Pritchard Avenue (near McKenzie) peppered with bullets in a drive-by, one house on Magnus Avenue (just off Aikens) sporting nine bullet holes after another drive-by, and a home on Burrows Avenue (also just off Aikens) which was fire-bombed.

We can't say if this is related to the crack house smack dab in the middle of the action, or to the gent on a motorcycle who stops in regularly to make a pickup.

Or if there's a connection to the marijuana grow op discovered by police on Burrows Avenue (the 400 block), just days before the public gunplay started.

Or even if the two men taken to hospital "with lacerations inflicted by unknown weapons" after a fight in the night of the firebombing the 200 block of Aikens (that street again) was anything more, than street business as usual. But we're reasonably convinced the arrests of two men on gun possession and drug charges at a home on Manitoba Avenue was unrelated.

Still, you can never be sure.

However we hope somebody sheds some light on these tit-for-tat events before somebody gets hurt, especially somebody with absolutely no relationship to the shooters and their targets. Just look at Toronto to see how ugly that can get.

And how pathetic to watch the news media run around crying "How did this happen? Why didn't anybody stop it?"

There's enough bad blood in Winnipeg already and some of it has been spilled. Remember that there's been no official resolution to the shooting of one unidentified man June 15 near the Montcalm Hotel, nor the shooting of another man in the 500 block of Home Street a month later. That man with the hole in his leg wasn't cooperating with police, last we heard. Does that sound familiar?

The apparent gang war is unfolding some short blocks north of Dufferin Avenue which was made famous earlier this year with the shooting by police of Matthew Dumas, an event that dominated the newscasts and front pages for a couple of weeks.

But you may have missed the most recent follow up to that story given how it was buried in the newspapers with few details to flesh out the intriguing headline. It seems that the incident that precipitated the police chase of Dumas turns out to be pretty minor indeed.

One man cracked a woman in the head with a beer bottle and snatched a necklace from the neck of a man at a house on Martin Ave. in East Kildonan. This was originally being treated by police as a robbery and they were looking for the suspects to the incident when they came across four teenagers on Dufferin Avenue. Matthew Dumas was one of them, and the only one to start running when the police headed over to talk to them.

On July 7th, a 38-year old man, Derrick Bone, pleaded guilty to assaulting the woman and stealing the necklace. The Crown stayed the charge of robbery. Bone was arrested two weeks after Dumas was shot and killed. He was sentenced to one day in jail and put on two years probation, as if that's going to matter.

But the bare-bones details of the guilty plea fail to shed much light on why Dumas ran from the police. Was Dumas in the house with Bone? Why was a 38-year-old man hanging around a group of teenagers?

One thing that has been confirmed is our exclusive story of what happened to Dumas when the police finally caught up with him.

We have learned that the Winnipeg Free Press sister publication The Times has followed the Black Rod story with the same findings-only minutes before Matthew Dumas was shot and killed on Dufferin Avenue, he was involved in a fight with police officers in the back lane between Dufferin and Stella.

A police officer caught up with Dumas on the door stoop of a Dufferin Avenue home and had lead him into the lane when the fight broke out. Dumas broke away and lead police on another short chase through the neighbourhood before they managed to bracket him.

It was when he shook off pepper spray and refused to drop the screw driver he was carrying in a threatening fashion that he was shot.

The Black Rod has learned that The Times refuses to go to print with the story because it conflicts with the current version of what happened --- that the police are to blame for failing to handcuff Dumas when they caught him. This is also the reason the CBC has failed to report on the fight despite knowing the details as well.

But both mainstream newsrooms deliberately ignore the fact that police had no reason to handcuff Dumas prior to the fight in the lane.
* He wasn't caught red-handed committing a crime.
* He wasn't waving a weapon.
* He wasn't making a threat.
* He wasn't a famous criminal known on sight.
He was just a boy in a yard where he didn't live. He couldn't even be charged with trespassing since the homeowner didn't call the police. So why would he be handcuffed?

The answer is obvious. He wasn't under arrest at the doorstep.

The only thing left - not a pun - for these reporters to try, is to blame the police
A) for not violating Dumas's rights when he was found on the doorstep or
B) for not beating him into submission like he was Rodney King.

Oh wait, so far they HAVE tried to float both A and B before the public.

The tall foreheads commanding city newsrooms have forgotten the essential duty of their reporters, to gather all the facts; and their own duty, to ensure a fair and balanced report is presented to the public.

Perhaps when they finally publish option C) the truth - that Dumas fought police and fled before he could be handcuffed, drew a weapon and refused to yield to warnings - then the public may draw a more reasonable theory than the newrooms have, about how and why Matthew Dumas met his fate.
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While we're on the subject of public safety, readers have asked if someone will please alert Mayor Katz that the situation in Osborne Village east of Osborne is considered worse- yes, worse - than on West Broadway. Maybe area Councillor Jenny Gerbasi is spending too much time on Corydon to have heard the rowdy hooligans on bicycles, stepped over the derelicts, or seen the trash, filth, garbage and graffitti pile up.

Increasing numbers of marginal characters, strung-out meth-heads and other no-goodniks who hang around on Osborne Street itself, roam the streets and alleys after midnite, waiting for local pubgoers and passers-by returning to their homes or cars to menace and mug. Perhaps the next time the Biz does a safety audit someone will notice the negligible police presence in the area after dark - not counting the cruisers setting up speed traps and Checkstops for vehicles - and the total lack of decent side-street lighting that would help keep the area safe for taxpayers, renters, seniors, students and oh yes - VOTERS.
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And finally to Anonymous.

Here's the Coles Notes version of our Krista Erickson story: A woman from Texas who took shelter in the hotel that Krista was staying when Hurricane Emily hit Mexico, said on the internet she intended to write a letter to CBC complaining that Krista was rude and obnoxious to her. She also said Krista's eyewitness report for CBC was wrong.

Another woman, from California, came to Krista's defence, but made some snide remarks about the woman from Texas. We found another witness and some pictures which supported Krista's story on CBC.

And we surmised from the remarks by Krista's California friend that the real source of the antagonism, was that the people who paid big bucks at one hotel were not happy with the hoi polloi from the cheaper hotel sharing their space and wanting a free breakfast. The Texas woman took a joking comment by Krista the wrong way and the whole thing was blown out of proportion.

And we're still wondering who Krista's "husband" is on the trip, but that's just us nosy parkers.

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