Anti-Semitic Attack on Winnipeg Café Was Staged, Say Police

Well, this is disappointing. Four days ago I blogged about a vicious anti-Semitic attack on a local Winnipoeg café.

Well, it turns out that the attack was staged by the owners:

An incident at a Corydon Avenue cafe that was originally reported as one of Winnipeg’s worst-ever hate crimes was apparently staged, said police. Three owners of the BerMax Caffé were arrested Wednesday and charged with public mischief, which involves intent to mislead and causing an officer to investigate an incident based on false information. The cafe was allegedly robbed, the interior trashed and the walls spray-painted with anti-Semitic graffiti on April 18, although investigators now say that was all staged by the owners.

I have little tolerance for people who stage fake attacks in a bid for sympathy. I will no longer be honouring this café with my business in future. And this stunt has made me just a little bit more cynical and jaded than I was before. The next time something like this happens, I am going to stop and ask myself, “Was this staged?”. And this means I have lost a bit more faith in humanity, which is sad.

The Winnipeg Free Press, Winnipeg’s major newspaper, reports:

Shock and disgust rippled through Winnipeg’s Jewish community Wednesday when police chief Danny Smyth announced three owners of BerMax Caffé + Bistro had been charged with staging the recent anti-Semitic “hate crime” at the restaurant.

After more than 25 officers from three separate units dedicated 1,000 hours to investigating the April 18 attack – which marked the fourth time in five months the family business was tagged with bigoted graffiti – Smyth said investigators concluded the whole thing was staged.

“I am hugely disappointed and frankly angry that this family has used hate and racism in such a disingenuous way. In doing so, they have allowed cynicism to creep into this discussion, cynicism that trivializes genuine victims of hate,” Smyth said.

The cafe – located in River Heights on the 1800 block of Corydon Avenue – was trashed during the incident and a woman (one of the accused) told investigators she’d been assaulted. The word “Jew” was spray-painted in black on the restaurant floor and a swastika was sketched on the wall.

Here is the official police report from the Winnipeg Police Service website:

Winnipeg Police Service Major Crimes investigators have arrested 3 adult suspects in an incident that occurred on Thursday, April 18, 2019 at a restaurant located in the 1800 block of Corydon Ave. The following individuals were arrested on April 24, 2019;

Alexander Berent, 56
Oxana Berent, 48
Maxim Berent, 29
                                     
These individuals are all owners of the café. They are each charged with one count of Public Mischief and released. Public Mischief (CCC 140 (1)) occurs when an individual, with intent to mislead, causes a peace officer to enter on or continue an investigation based on a false statement or causing another person to be suspected of having committed an offence to divert suspicion from themselves.

Investigators believe that the initial report of a robbery was staged. Further, the anti-semitic graffiti and vandalism were also falsely reported as being done by outside suspects.

Hate-related crime is one of the most heinous acts we encounter as a society. It tears at the fabric of who we are as a country. False allegations of hate crime trivialize the trauma that genuine victims endure. The Winnipeg Police Service fully investigates all reports of hate-related crime. We encourage the public to report any suspected incident.

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How to Do Cam Shopping in Second Life: Yes, You Can Cam Shop from the Next Sim at Crowded SL Sales Events!

You might not be aware that the Blueberry store is celebrating its 7th anniversary in Second Life. The Blueberry Store VIP group is free to join for a limited time, and you can pick some lovely group gifts for free in the lobby of the store. But wait, there’s more!

In the current group notices of the Blueberry Store VIP group, there is a HUD which you can wear and click to get L$250 free credit for the Blueberry store applied to your avatar’s account. The credit is good for 28 days only, but you might want to use it before the 50% Off Sale ends at midnight SL time on April 24th, as your store credits will go twice as far!

However, there’s a big problem. Unless you are a Premium member, you are simply not going to get into that absolutely jam-packed sim that houses the Blueberry store. It’s on a sim which can only accommodate 30 avatars at a time, and everybody and their dog is trying to get in right now and scoop up the bargains. Even the Teleport Hammer ain’t gonna help you here. But if you want to hit that 50% off sale before it ends, what can you do? (Short of upgrading to a Premium SL membership, which gives you priority access to packed sims. And believe me, if you are an avid shopper, it’s worth the upgrade just for that perk alone.)

And this is where cam shopping comes in. What is cam shopping? It’s long-distance shopping, using your SL camera to find and buy an item you want from across the boundary between two sims (here is a summary of the camera controls in Firestorm and the camera keyboard shortcuts). Here’s a diagram which explains how cam shopping works:

Yes, that’s right, you don’t even need to be in the same sim in order to do your shopping at crowded events! Now, before you can cam shop, there’s a couple of settings you do need to check and adjust on your Firestorm viewer (again, I’m sorry, but I don’t know what the equivalent settings are for the default SL viewer). In Firestorm, press Ctrl-Alt-D to turn on the Advanced menu along the top of your viewer. Then, in the drop-down menu under Advanced, make sure that Limit Select Distance has no check mark next to it, and Disable Camera Constraints does have a check mark next to it:

If you don’t don’t have those two settings correct, you will not be able to cam shop!

So, in the case of the Blueberry sale on the Lenox and Blueberry sim, you can probably get more easily into the Palau sim next door, and do your cam shopping from there!

Don’t thank me, it’s all a public service, etc. etc.

Those Who Do Not Remember the Past Are Condemned to Repeat It

Police unit at BerMax café in Winnipeg, 2019 (image from CBC News)

UPDATE April 24th: Winnipeg police now report that this attack was staged by the owners. Three people have been charged.

The BerMax café on Corydon Avenue in Winnipeg, which I have visited quite a few times in the past year, was the target of a vicious anti-Semitic attack on Thursday night. CBC News reports:

A woman was assaulted and a Winnipeg restaurant was spray-painted with hateful graffiti Thursday, police say. Police were called to BerMax Caffé and Bistro, on Corydon Avenue just east of Kenaston Boulevard, around 10:45 p.m. The woman was taken to hospital in stable condition, treated and released, police say.

Police say the entire restaurant was “severely vandalized” and spray-painted with anti-Semitic graffiti. Police are investigating whether a robbery also took place. The inside of the restaurant was almost entirely destroyed, with plates and glasses smashed to pieces, tables and chairs flipped over and other items scattered across the floor, according to police. The same restaurant has been targeted with similar crimes four times in the past five months, Const. Rob Carver told reporters at a news conference Friday. 

Disturbingly, this attack has echoes of Kristallnacht. Both my mother and my father had the great misfortune to be born in Hitler’s Germany in the 1930s, and while neither was Jewish, my family was still significantly impacted by fascism. So I was shocked to my core to see this happen in Winnipeg, a city I call my home, which I had always considered to be diverse, friendly, welcoming, and highly supportive of multi-culturalism (it is home to Folklorama, the world’s largest and longest-running multicultural festival).

We cannot let our guard down. We must continue to fight anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism, xenophobia, and fascism wherever we encounter them, even if (especially if) it is in our own backyard. We must stop it, and we must act NOW. We must root it out. We cannot afford to ignore the lessons of the past. As George Santayana said, those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.


Kristallnacht, shop damage in Magdeburg, Germany, 1938 (Wikipedia)

How to Effectively Deal with Conflict in Online Communities

Early this morning before I left for work, I had to step in to intervene in a three-way conversation on the RyanSchultz.com Discord about a technical issue, which was rapidly turning into a heated disagreement. All sides of the argument had very strong opinions, and after another angry debate later today, one of the parties chose to leave the Discord completely, despite my pleas to stay.

Which led me to ask myself: what is the best way to moderate online communities when people start to argue? And how can you have a civil disagreement without having it devolve into arguments, accusations and people leaving the community, never to return? (Please note that I am not talking about trolls, griefing and harassment, which are an entirely separate topic.) So I went and did a little research…

And I found a very useful post from the SocMedSean blog, ten tips for knowing when and how to avoid an online argument:

  1. Learn Thumper’s Rule: If you can’t say something nice, then say nothing at all.
  2. Don’t argue just to argue: “Community managers can spot them a mile away. Trolls who like to just stir the pot and start arguments. They’re the bane of our existence and when I spot one, I give one stern warning and then have no problem clicking the Ban button when they do it again. If you’re there just to argue, then go someplace else. If you’re there to contribute and enjoy the company of other people, great. But don’t be a troll. No one likes  a troll.”
  3. Know your position and how to defend it: “Do you really believe in the argument you’re making or are you just attacking the person who is disagreeing with you?”
  4. Think about the community: “Before you go off on a rant, think about whether the content is actually useful to the other members of the community. If not, keep it to yourself or find the right channel to express your point of view.
  5. Consider how others would view the discussion and your behaviour
  6. Consult with the site owner or community manager
  7. Learn to agree to disagree
  8. Consider learning from the person you are debating
  9. Be you…the real you: “Understand that who you are online should be reflective of who you are in real life. Ask yourself, ‘if I held this argument in person over a beer, would I be saying the same things?’ If the answer is NO, then stop typing. Don’t say things online that you wouldn’t say in-person.”
  10. Back up your position with real, verifiable facts

Neobela, one of the members of the RyanSchultz.com Discord, summed it all up in a couple of words:

Howard Rhinegold’s Brainstorms (where many folk from The Well landed) had only one community rule: “Assume Goodwill”. That pretty much covers it all if you think about it!

Part of the problem with online communities is that you often don’t have things like tone of voice or facial expressions to add to what the person is typing. This can often lead to tragic misunderstandings. And it’s surprising how often people forget this. It’s always better to ask and confirm what someone is saying, rather than make assumptions. (Again, I am not talking about dealing with trolls and griefers.)

So, what tips and tricks have you found helpful in dealing with conflict in online communities? Please feel free to leave a comment below, or even better, join us on my Discord and continue the conversation there!