Hate-crime attack on café staged, Winnipeg police say, as 3 charged with mischief

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Hate-crime attack on café staged, Winnipeg police say, as 3 charged with mischief

by - 2 min read

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An anti-Semitic attack originally called “the most brazen” the city had seen was staged by the owners of the restaurant that reported it, Winnipeg police say.

All three owners of the restaurant have been arrested and charged with public mischief, after the incident was initially reported last week.

On Thursday evening, police responded to a report of an assault at the BerMax Caffé and Bistro on Corydon Avenue just east of Kenaston Boulevard. A woman said she was assaulted, and the restaurant was spray-painted with hateful graffiti, police said.

Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth said Wednesday the incident was staged.

“The anti-Semitic graffiti and vandalism were also falsely reported as being done by outside suspects,” Smyth said.

WATCH: Winnipeg police chief ‘hugely disappointed’ by allegedly staged attack:  

Winnipeg’s police chief says the allegedly anti-Semitic attack on a River Heights cafe was staged. 1:18

“We found evidence of a crime. It just wasn’t a hate crime,” said Smyth, adding the police expended considerable resources investigating the incident and took it seriously.

Alexander Berent, 56, Oxana Berent, 48, and Maxim Berent, 29, have all been charged with public mischief and were released after their arrest, police say. They are slated to appear in court in May.

Smyth said he is disappointed by the allegedly staged crime and fears it will promote cynicism.

The incident took place the night before the start of Passover, a significant Jewish holiday.

“I just can’t fathom how or why people would want to do such a terrible act,” Elaine Goldstine, chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, said after the reports of the vandalism and attack last week. “We are horrified and saddened.”

“It’s the most brazen act of anti-Semitism that we’ve seen in our community, and perhaps ever,” added Federation spokesperson Adam Levy. “We hope this is not a sign of things to come.”

‘Deeply disturbed’

In a written statement Wednesday afternoon, the federation said:

“We are shocked and deeply disturbed by today’s news. It is deplorable that anyone would make false allegations of anti-Semitism, especially claims of such a serious nature, for any kind of gain.

“False complaints of criminal acts of anti-Semitism are not only illegal, they undermine the important work necessary to counter anti-Semitism and hate in all forms.

“We reiterate our appreciation of the work of the Winnipeg Police Service and their continued support for the Jewish community.”

Smyth wouldn’t speculate on a motive for staging the incident. Nor would he comment on a previous report of a hate-motivated incident at the same restaurant.

This story originally appeared on CBC

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