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Opening comments: More at the end.
Here the National Post has printed the same poem that got Mr. Batist arrested - why has no ones been arrested yet - should not Mississauga City Councillor Pat Saito be wetting herself in fear by now?
To the web-page with the list of articles regarding this matter.
National Post - Saturday, May 26, 2007 - By Joseph Brean
Pothole poet lands in court
'Satire,' lawyer says, not death threats against councillor
Voltaire was thrown in the Bastille prison for writing satire about the French aristocracy. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn laboured in the Soviet Gulag for criticizing Josef Stalin. Salman Rushdie was sentenced to death by the Ayatollah Khomeini for blaspheming Islam.
Now, Antonio Batista, a diminutive 75-year-old Portuguese immigrant who lives with his wife in a Toronto suburb, faces a possible jail sentence for writing a poem about a local politician.
Police allege Mr. Batista's poem contains a death threat, and constitutes illegal intimidation against Mississauga councillor Pat Saito, and a Crown lawyer will argue their case on Monday before a judge in Brampton, Ont.
Parked Cars and Potholes in the City of Mississauga may not be a Shakespearean sonnet. Indeed, it is barely English. But by pasting copies on newspaper boxes near his Mississauga home, and allegedly distributing them on a bus, police allege the elderly poet became a criminal.
"I don't see how you could take it as anything but [a death threat]," Ms. Saito said yesterday. "I was worried, I was very worried, and I was worried for my family as well. I don't live very far from him... You don't know how stable they are, what they're going to do."
At the same time, she has "no desire" for him to go to jail.
With his transparent images, curious capitalization, inconsistent rhyming, and overblown frustration at city politics, Mr. Batista does not fit the traditional image of the persecuted writer. But prominent Toronto civil rights lawyer Clayton Ruby is banking that a judge will decide these charges constitute a violation of Mr. Batista's Charter right to freedom of speech.
To that end, Mr. Ruby has recruited Dennis Duffy, an emeritus professor of English at the University of Toronto, to educate the court about the literary device of satire, and how satirical writing does not always mean what it appears to mean.
According to Sarah Loosemore, a lawyer in Mr. Ruby's office, Prof. Duffy will tell the court that satire is "a form of literature where you don't mean literally the words that you write, using exaggeration and metaphor to make a point."
So when Mr. Batista wrote that he was going to dig a special pothole for Ms. Saito, "six feet long and three feet wide / and five feet deep to hide / her body," he was not actually uttering a death threat, Ms. Loosemore said.
"He's basically making fun of her for spending all this time worrying about potholes instead of dealing with his concerns," she said. "His purpose, however ineptly executed, was to raise awareness in the neighbourhood that the city councillor is not doing her job."
Mr. Batista and Ms. Saito have a long history, which began four years ago at an open house near the new development where Mr. Batista lives in western Mississauga.
After they met, Mr. Batista called her office. She remembers him as a somewhat cranky old man who had lots of complaints about things like sidewalk grates and tree maintenance, and tended to ramble on, but was nevertheless cordial and not threatening.
He first wrote to her about a tax dispute, but Ms. Saito's response was accidentally not mailed, which she believes he took as a snub, even after she apologized. That was in 2005, and things quickly got ugly. He became, as Ms. Saito put it, "irrationally angry," and wrote to every member of city council, criticizing Ms. Saito. He had fixated, she said, on a joke she made to a local newspaper reporter, that potholes are good for road safety because they force drivers to slow down.
Then, last February, a parking officer brought a copy of the poem into the office, and said there were maybe half a dozen more pasted to mailboxes and newspaper boxes in an area near Mr. Batista's home. Below the poem was a photocopied picture of Ms. Saito, with the caption, "Do you know her?" The poem was unsigned, but it seemed to match Mr. Batista's earlier letter.
"We recognized the typing, the typewriter. I felt like CSI, quite honestly," Ms. Saito said.
Confronted by police, Mr. Batista initially denied being the author, then allegedly admitted it was him. He was charged last February with uttering a death threat and intimidation, and given a restraining order to stay away from Ms. Saito and the rest of council.
Soon after, the poem started turning up in emails to politicians all across the country, some of who called Ms. Saito's office to ask what was going on. Then, last November, Mr. Batista allegedly broke his restraining order by going into City Hall to register as a candidate against Ms. Saito in local elections, with his son Joe as campaign manager. Soon after, his son entered the race as well. Both lost, and Ms. Saito was re-elected.
Mr. Batista, who is recovering from surgery, was unavailable for comment yesterday.
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Parked Cars and Potholes in the City of Mississauga
Pat pot, patch pot look here look there pat pot, patch pot there is a car parked here there is a car parked in there.
This kept a Good-looking old Lady away from her working place and by looking at potholes She thought about about doing nothing and winning the Race
There She marched back and forth one two, one two one two three four one two, three four one two, three four
But on Her way back to her working place She got lost on the fog and could not keep up with the running traffic and She lost the race.
When She got to Churchill Meadows She was out off the Race But She was too far behind in Her work, and without thinking
She backed up and without making Sure that it was safe to do so She provoked a big accident
Now this bad driver that We only know as Pat Saito who run away from that accident
site is going to think twice before backing up and looking at pot holes instead of doing Her job
We are going to dig a pothole about six feet long and three feet wide and five feet deep to hide her body and God will take care of Her Soul, but We can not forgive her for doing nothing
She can keep running at a good pace but We will make sure that She is in HEAVEN and out of the Race.
So please GOD take care of this SOUL for ever and EVER. --Antonio Batista
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