You almost needed a traffic cop to separate the mobs and keep them from stepping on each others' toes, which is ironic since one of the lynch mobs was determined to string up two police officers who had seen serious charges against them tossed out of court.
Police officers, you have to understand, have become the new criminal class in the eyes of the NDP government. They have devoted a decade's worth of resources to demonize the police through a series of show trials disguised as public inquiries (Sophonow, Driskell, Unger) while rewarding men convicted of murder, by juries, with millions of dollars.
The only thing missing in the government's scheme of things is the successful prosecution of a police officer for ... well, anything. They need at least one scalp to satisfy the mob and they'll stop at nothing to get it.
Unfortunately for them, the laws of Canada exist as much to protect the innocent from false prosecutions as to convict the guilty.
That's why there are rules such as insisting the prosecution prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Another rule is ensuring the person on trial is the actual person who you're alleging committed the crime; the government can't just snatch someone at random and charge him with an offence.
In whipping up the Tuesday lynch mob, Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck called this rule "almost silly."
The judge presiding at the perjury trial didn't think so.
After the prosecution wrapped up its case against Jess Zebrun and Peter O’Kane, Justice Brenda Keyser ruled that there was no evidence that the two men before her were the men at the heart of the perjury case, a warrantless visit to a hotel room where drug dealers had stashed almost a pound of crack cocaine.
The mob hit the streets screaming for blood. They split into two camps. One believes the special prosecutor, Robert Tapper, deliberately botched the trial to let the policemen off. The other believes that he, as a civil litigator handling a criminal case, was just incompetent. The one thing they agree on is that the police are guilty, jury or no jury.
"It’s not like there was a real issue with identity. We all know who the cops are..." wrote Brodbeck demanding the rules of trial be ignored.
Except that's the problem.
When "we all know" becomes the basis of a prosecution, there's a very serious defect in the system. That's exactly why the rules exist, to prevent the innocent from being convicted because "we all know" they did it.
In this case, the judge didn't rule on the basis of the careers of the men standing before her. Justice was indeed blind. She applied the rules of law as evenly to them as to anyone else who wasn't a policeman who might be in their shoes.
And that's driven the mob mad.
They don't want the police to get any special treatment, except for when equal treatment benefits them; then they should get special treatment.
Uh, no. What brought the administration of justice into disrepute was dropping the charges against the drug dealers who were caught red-handed. You want to talk about losing faith in the justice system? Start by talking why drug dealers were set free on a "technicality" and why the policemen who arrested them were prosecuted for doing their job.
The simplest way to handle this matter would have been to take the drug dealers to trial. Their defence lawyers could have raised the issue of an allegedly improper search and the jury would have decided then and there whether they agreed and whether to acquit the accused. No question of identity involved.
Instead, the provincial government went after the arresting police officers, and the federal prosecutor, seeing his case dissolve before his eyes, dropped the drug charges.
As a perfect example of how petty the government's case against O'Kane and Zebrun was, is the other, forgotten, charge against them --- unlawfully being in a dwelling house.
That's a charge laid when a drunk wanders into your house through an unlocked door and falls asleep on your sofa. It's not a charge you lay against a police officer tracking down a drug dealer's stash house.
The fact that this was one of the accusations against the officers is proof that the investigators handed the Crown a grabbag of possible charges and let them decide to take one from column A, one from column B, and maybe one from column C and see what happens. In this case, what happened was, the case collapsed.
The other lynch mob on the streets last week had a bigger fish in its sights, a Court of Queen's Bench judge.
Justice Rob Dewar became Public Enemy #1 when he convicted a man of rape but refused to send him to prison. The man was guilty of the one offence, but the circumstances were such that he didn't deserve a severe punishment such as the 3 years the Crown wanted, the judge said in imposing a two years conditional sentence that includes a one-year curfew. Those circumstances included a sexy, flirting victim.
That's all it took to send the mob into a frenzy. An unprecedented rally at the Legislature by sign-carrying protestors demanded that Dewar quit, be fired, be suspended, or be otherwise punished for "blaming the victim."
After all, she had only been in such a hurry to "party" that she forgot to wear underwear when she left the house, although she thankfully remembered to wear her high party heels. She playfully suggested going swimming in a nearby lake to her new friend, although her bathing suit was still at home with her bra. Some judgemental people might call that an invitation for skinnydipping.
And she did some making out with the man she knew for all of an hour or two, but when her "clumsy Don Juan" misread the signals and forced intercourse on her along a darkened highway, she definitely was not willing. She said.
So the lynch party rallied to demand Dewar's head or his job.
Now, you might think that someone would point out that that's not how justice is decided in Manitoba---by mob rule. And, in fact, the Crown has 30 days to appeal the sentence Dewar imposed and his reasons for doing so.
But that didn't stop unelected Premier Greg Selinger from dashing to the head of the mob with his torch held high and his noose swinging low.
His government was going to file a complaint with the Canadian Judicial Complaints Council and he wanted you to know it. He even sent out a news release to make sure the news got into the newspapers.
And the release carried a list of "numerous initiatives" the province has implemented "to protect women from sexual attacks ", not that the NDP was politicizing the case for political gain in the coming provincial election.
No, they wouldn't try to influence the courts to win an election, would they?
Certainly not after telling the Legislature year after year that they couldn't interfere in court cases because that would be unethical, if not illegal.
Oh, wait, Greg Selinger, the dirtiest politician in Manitoba.
Pass the pitchfork, ethics be damned.