Saturday, May 30, 2009

JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: The Johnny Northside School Of "Aggressively Good Citizenship" Produces Two Felony Convinctions In St. Paul...

Mug Shots, Therefore In The Public Domain

A recent article in the Minnesota Daily, click here, told the story of a pirate DVD ring busted in St. Paul, in a dingy strip mall parking lot where one can shop at the Salvation Army and then purchase, among other things, cans of ant larvae at the nearby Asian food market.

Don't knock it until you try it. I tell ya, I've never had an insect-based food that wasn't delicious or, at least, tolerable.

In any case, DVDs of pirated movies were sold from plastic bins on the hood of an SUV, brazenly. The story is told by reporter...

...Andy Mannix, who was the same reporter who co-autored a MinnPost article--click here--about how the foreclosure crisis is actually HELPING REVITALIZATION in NoMi. That article spun out all sorts of interesting consequences, including Insight News launching harsh criticism at Council Member Don Samuels and Hawthorne Housing Director Jeff Skrenes for, oh gee, pointing out the obvious:

The high rate of vacant houses is the best chance North Minneapolis has had in decades to move out the no-account thugs and move in better quality people. Those are my words, not theirs.

Blame me.

And while we're on the subject of blaming me...

I recently fired off this letter, below, to the Minnesota Daily with my point of view on the DVD pirate ring article.

And do I have a point of view?

Oh, yes, I was pretty close to the center of things and I have a point of view.

Here's the letter:
The article about the Pirates of St. Paul was well-written and informative, but a key piece of information was left out: this bust for DVD piracy happened because an active and involved citizen repeatedly contacted the Motion Picture Association to get an investigation launched.

Let me make it clear that I spoke to the reporter who wrote this article--a real top notch journalist, definitely going places--and more or less tipped him off to this story. Though I was initially reluctant to have my name be part of the story, because of worries about retaliation by the felons involved in this piracy ring--I ultimately told the reporter that I preferred to have my name published, along with the name of my blog, Johnny Northside Dot Com.

I believe in "aggressively good citizenship" and I promote it on my activist blog about North Minneapolis revitalization. While making trips every other week to visit my 11-year-old son, I often came upon the brazen video pirates at that dreary strip mall in St. Paul, selling their wares on the hood of a vehicle. So I began making small buys and contacting authorities, noting license plates and stuff like that. The process of getting an MPA investigation and then a police investigation was arduous. I practically lobbied this raid into existence through constant contact with the MPA.

Yes, I was the guy who bought and turned over the 007 "Quantum of Solace" DVD while the movie was still in theaters. (The DVD is mentioned in the article) I say these things because I don't think citizens should live their life in vague fear of unknown retaliation for cooperating with the police, and I also don't think articles in the mass media should give the impression (even by inference) that police are able to do everything on their own, without help and cooperation from citizens.

Maybe the reporter was being helpful and protecting me on his own initiative, or maybe space considerations were an issue. No matter. I'm writing this letter to say I WAS THE ONE WHO GOT THOSE NO-ACCOUNT THUGS BUSTED FOR DVD PIRACY, AND I'D DO IT AGAIN.
This might be a good time to point out the activist efforts of this blog are made possible, partly, through reader donations. Note PayPal button. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Nice job busting the pirates. I have to make a comment regarding your reference to Don Samuels comments concerning the foreclosure crisis.

In my experience, Don is right on the money. My block sucked before all the absentee landlords lost their houses. Their renters sucked, and I hated living around every single one of them. Then, when half a dozen houses went into foreclosure, and the sucky renters left- it got quiet. No more dealing, no more gunshots, no more total idiots being completely inconsiderate. Now that several of the foreclosures have been purchased by reputable homeowners and/or investors (who also live in the area), things are much better.

Al McFarlane is living in a dream world.

Don is right on the money. Things are getting better.

Andy Mannix said...

As author of the Daily article, I can confirm that John was an integral part of both my reporting and the police/MPAA investigation. Though there were a few factors weighing into John not being named in the story, the biggest and most concrete was that John is a former Daily columnist. There's a Daily policy about including former employees as sources (put simply, it would be difficult to prove as objective to readers). For the sake of transparency, John did clue me into the investigation and provide me with information that made the story possible.

Andy Mannix
Minnesota Daily
Managing Editor

Johnny Northside said...

Yes, I confirm that. Mannix was looking to the police and MPA as sources, not me. Ideas about stories are often kicked around among folks in the media, but that "kicking around" doesn't rise to the level of a formal "source."

Everything in that story Mannix either got from the police or got personally through his own digging.