Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Local Press Botches Wilkerson Reporting Again

The Ann Arbor News and the Michigan Daily both covered the Wilkerson trial today. Below find excerpts from the article in italics with my (PM) remarks interspersed.

Jury to decide: Did doctor act properly or interfere at protest?
Police ordered physician to step away from scene
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The Ann Arbor News

Opening arguments were to begin this morning in the case against a local physician who faces two misdemeanor criminal charges accusing her of interfering with police and paramedics at the scene of a protest.

PM: Actually, she is accused of attempting to interfere. This is no fine point but it is, apparently, too subtle for Ann Arbor News reporters who have botched it twice, now. The crime actually interfering with police is a felony and it is telling that the prosecution did not charge Dr. Wilkerson with actually doing what they say she attempted to do.

The man showed up to protest a guest lecturer, who discussed relations between the United States and Iran.

PM: Yeah, and Colin Powell was just discussing relations between the United States and Iraq when he gave his now infamous speech at the UN on February 5, 2003. In fact, the "guest lecturer," Ray Tanter, openly argued for, among other things, the US to help foment civil war in Iran.

The protester, Blaine Coleman, appeared to have fainted and was being treated by paramedics when Wilkerson, who was also involved in the protest, tried to intervene.

PM: Yesterday, Dave Gershman said he "appeared to fall unconscious." Tomorrow, expect Gantert to tell us "Coleman seemed a little drowsy." According to UM Officer West's report, West and UM Sgt. Connors "took him to the ground." I saw Coleman then and he was still conscious with two hefty cops on him as he lay face-down on the floor. He said "I can't breathe" and then lost consciousness.

Gantert, it should be noted, is not an uninterested observer. On December 12, 2006, on the front page of the local news section of the Ann Arbor News Gantert wrote an article, "Palestinian advocate's behavior at meetings spinning out of control," in which he called Coleman "a buffoon" and a "hate-monger" who "needs to be shut down." Truth be told, Gantert is so biased against Coleman that he shouldn't be covering any story related to him.

Wilkerson also has said the charges are politically motivated and only came after she filed a police brutality complaint - allegations denied by the county prosecutor's office.

PM: According to a letter from AAPD Lieutenant Mark St. Amour dated January 17, 2007, Dr. Wilkerson filed her complaint (#07-008) on January 16, 2007. According to the criminal complaint filed by the prosecutor the warrant was authorized against Dr. Wilkerson on January 23, 2007. These are public records but, apparently, the reporters at the Ann Arbor News are too lazy or complacent to walk the one block from their office to the police station or the two blocks to the county courthouse to do the research on their own.

As bad as the Ann Arbor News' coverage has been it almost looks as though it was written by fair-minded critical thinkers when compared to "Trial starts for woman charged after '06 talk" by Julie Rowe of the Michigan Daily. This is no mean feat. Rowe writes:

A trial is set to begin today for an Ann Arbor doctor charged with impeding police and emergency medical technicians after an incident last year in which protesters were arrested after disrupting a lecture in the Michigan League.

PM: See above re: the charges.

Protesters chanted "Hands off Iran" and "Tanter is a pig". Tanter said he abandoned his planned remarks in response to the interruptions and instead answered questions from audience members and protesters.

PM: I passed the protesters on the way into the room where I arrived ten minutes before Tanter began his program. At no time, did I hear anyone chant or say "Hands off Iran" and "Tanter is a pig". The latter is not even plausible for a chant outside that I may have missed although the former is. In any case, Rowe reports this as fact, it is not. Tanter departed from his planned PowerPoint presentation because neither he nor his hosts could get his computer to work.

The protesters were accusing Tanter of being a supporter of unjustified military action in Iran and the Middle East.

PM: Tanter stands condemned by his own words and any impartial person who undertakes to read a representative sample of them will see that he has long been an advocate of war and civil war in the Middle East.

Wilkerson is charged with two misdemeanors charges for attempting to assault, obstruct or resist a police officer and an emergency medical technician.

PM: Kudos for getting it right here.

According to the Diane Brown, Department of Public Safety spokeswoman, several warnings were issued to the protesters that their interruptions violated the University's policies for protest during a speech.

PM: The interruptions did not violate the policy but the police crackdown clearly did. As a local attorney related to me, the truth is that most cops and administrators probably disliked Lee Bollinger's free speech policy from the beginning. They clearly violated it last year.

"No matter how controversial a speaker is, that speaker needs to be able to speak. That's the whole point of freedom of speech," Brown said. "You can't just say 'I don't like what they've got to say.' They must be able to hold their event."

PM: Tanter was never prevented from making his presentation, except, perhaps, by technical problems. So, he winged it.

After American Movement for Israel Chair Josh Berman and other organizers issued three warnings to protesters, DPS officers attempted to remove one of the female protesters. Coleman attempted to prevent the officers from removing her. Both responded to DPS attempts to remove them by going limp.

PM: Again, Rowe simply parrots the University's and AMI's version of events. Speaking as a witness and one who did not protest that night: They did not go limp. They were both taken to the floor by police.

Brown told The Michigan Daily after the incident that this is a tactic used frequently by protesters.

PM: Brown also said only a doctor at the scene could determine if Coleman was actually unconscious and, unfortunately for partisans of the official story there happened to be a physician right there and then who has said he was unconscious. Now, in true Orwellian fashion they are trying to change the truth by turning that doctor into a criminal--a thought criminal inasmuch as she is not charged with actually doing anything, just attempting.

Though Brown would not specifically name Coleman, she disputed the claim that the man lying on the ground was badly hurt.

"One of the people who claimed he was hurt during this whole thing was supposedly laying on the ground receiving medical attention," she said. "But periodically his eye would open up."

PM: There was only one man on the floor that night and Brown wasn't there. The University Hospital emergency room report says he suffered a brain contusion and that's why the prosecution has fought like hell to exclude as evidence the medical records from that night but don't expect to read about that in News or the Daily (or Arbor Update, either).

After paramedics arrived, police removed Coleman's handcuffs and attempted to revive him. One tactic they tried was the use of ammonia inhalants.

PM: If he wasn't unconscious or badly hurt then why did he need to be revived?

In the article, Wilkerson said that she then told the paramedic: "What you're doing is punitive and has no efficacy."

PM: Actually, here is what Wilkerson said:
When the patient didn't respond to a sternal rub, one of the paramedics popped an ammonia inhalant and thrust it beneath the patient's nostrils. If you're interested in what's wrong with that, google Dr. Bryan Bledsoe, foremost authority on paramedicine, and read his article condemning this dangerous practice. That it's "just bad medicine" is sufficient to make the paramedic's actions unacceptable, but what happened next made my blood curdle. He popped a second inhalant and a third, then cupped his hands over the patient's nostrils to heighten the noxious effect. "You don't like that, do you?" he said.

At that point I issued a direct medical order for him to stop, but he ignored me. "What you're doing is punitive," I said, "and has no efficacy." Then as the patient retched, rather than rolling him onto his side to avoid the chance of his choking on his own vomit, a firefighter held his feet down and yelled, "don't spit." In thirty years of doctoring, I have never witnessed such egregious maltreatment of a patient. Again I spoke up, "this is punitive." I hoped to shame the paramedical into stopping his unethical behavior.

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