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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - October 6, 1971, Lethbridge, Alberta Wednoldoy, Otlnbnr 197] _ THE IFTHBRIIGI HERALD _ This is the story behind the story of Attica state prison By EDMUND PINTO ATTICA, N.Y. (AP) This is the story behind Ihe story af Attica. In the wake of I he prison up- rising in which 42 men died, lire news media coverage of the events at Attica state prison has generated a controversy of its own. It is focused chiefly on the media's role in distributing on that Monday 13 reports that rebellious convicts had slashed the throats of hostages who died. The re- ports later were described by medical authorities as false and some critics charged the news media were too ready to accept as fact the word of the officials. In another view, Vice-Presi- dent Spiro T. Agnew and United States Senator William Buck- 1 e y, Conservative-Republican from New York, have criticized the coverage as slanted in be- half of the convicts. And here in Attica, it is still possible to find doubters who do not easily accept the autopsy findings that the nine hostages who died were shot in the police raid and not slashed by their angry captors. The story of the coverage of Attica's insiu'rection, the worst prison riot in Uie U.S. history, "began Thursday, Sept. 3, when some convicts rebelled and took control of part of the prison, taking guards and other prison employees as hostages. SEPARATED BY WALLS The 30-foot walls of the maxi- mum-security prison separated the news media from events in- side. The slate permitted pools with cameramen- inside the prison Thursday. Fri- day and Saturday to witness ne- gotiations. There was no pool on the Sunday More Uie armed attack. Gerald Houlliihan, public in- formation officer for the state correction department, and other state officials set up head- quarters inside the prison and reporters at the scene recall Houlihan's coming out every two or three hours to read offi- cial statements and answer some questions. It was at one of these ses- sions, hours after the police raid broke the rebellion in its fourth day, that the report of throat-slashings was heard for the first time from the lips of a state official. In the first days, some infor- mation came from those who went in and out of the prison- chaplains, members of the civil- ian mediation team and those police officers who would an- swer questions as they passed reporters at the gate. Some facts of Monday morn- ing, the day of the raid, are well known by now. Roughly armed peace officers moved against convicts who held 33 hostages in their D. Block exercise yard. As a result, 42 persons are prison employees and 32 convicts. One Qu had died Saturday morning of injuries suffered earlier in the revolt. WAITED FOR BREAK As dawn broke that Monday, Houlihan appeared outside Uie prison. He distributed to report- ers mimeographed texts of an ultimatum that state Correc- tions Commissioner Russet G. Oswald had issued to the con- victs an hour before. In it, Os- wald urged the immediate re- lease of all hostages and a res- toration of order to the prison. Then hundreds of day-shift state police, heavily armed and carrying gas masks, entered the prison to join the night shift. Two helicopters on the lawn out- side the prison started up. One helicopter look off. It cir- cled above the prison once, and suddenly swung hack across the walls at low level dumping tear gas into the yard below. The time was a.m. Immediately, gunfire rattled and boomed inside and from atop the grey walls, accompa- nied by screams and shouts. The tear gas drifted over the wall, gagging reporters and rel- atives of prison employees who had massed there. Shouts and calls for assistance crackled loudly from radios in parked po- lice cruisers. FOUR-MINUTE SILENCE The gunfire stopped in about four minutes, and the circling helicopter began broadcasting a message over loudspeakers to the yard below: "Place your hands on your head and surren- der to the officer nearest you. You will not be hurt." Then members of the assault team began s t u m b 1 i n g out Uirough the prison gates, gag- ging from the tear gas. Prison iguards standing outside the walls began counting off the re- covery of hostages as they were brought out until all but nine were accounted for. At this point, Uie first word of slashing of hostages was heard. It came in the gasping, choking Voices of those who had been inside, in fragments of conver- sations as they stumbled, walked or were led away. About 1V2 hours after the as- sault had been roughly appeared at the gate to make the first official statement on hostage deaths. lie reported that 37 convicts and'hostages had been killed. In a chaotic scene, reporters shouted questions up to him. "How about the cut someone shouted. The question was asked several times. Houli- han demurred several times and then said: "Several hos- tages had their throats slashed." He was not asked and he did not say where his information came from. Another report of throat slash- ings game from Frank Wald, a guard hostage, whose own throat bore slash marks seen by an AP reporter. "They (the convicts) had lined us up and were proceeding to execute us by cutting our throats. They (the assault team) got the man who was going to cut my throat just as he began to pull Uie knife across." At this point, reports of slash- ings and mutilations gathered strength as they came from troopers who had been inside, guards and relatives of men connected with the prison. In New York City Uiat after- noon, Gov. Nelson A. Rockefel- ler issued a statement attribut- ing hostage deaths to the "highly organized revolutionary tactics of militants who carried out cold-blooded killings they had threatened from the outset" Several media carried -reports of the slashing deaths that day without attribution, slating as fact that Uiis was how the hos- tages died. AP CARRIED REPORTS The Associated Press was not among these in its initial re- ports on Monday of Uie raid and the deaths. By the next day. the hostages slashing were widely accepted as fact. One AP story reported them that way Tuesday. As to Oswald's state- ments Monday, no AP report- er's notes show a flat assertion HELP FOR THE BUND Reading o bulletin board with a hand-held scanner, Shar! Gabrielson tries out ihc micro- miniaturized "Optacon'' developed at Stanford Univer- sity to cjiva "eyes" to the fingers of Jhc blind. The pholo- smr-ilivo scanner translator. letters into signals r.onvryrd by I'M vibiatinc] pins lo Ihc holder's fingertips. Tllo poll- able unit Ihc result of riglil yeor.% testing and develop- ment, from him to the effect that hos- tages' throats had hcen cut. After the raid's start, lie did read a statement to reporters, saying in part thai the situation vi a s "seriously deteriorating the prisoners callously herded eight hostages within our view with weapons at their throats." In an attempt to hear his views more fully, The Asso- ciated Press, without success, twice offered Oswalfd an oppor- lunily to present his side of the Attica story. Oswald declined one invitation i on three grounds: Die tightness of Ihe time limit he said The AP had imposed on him, probable conflicts with an official vale interview .since the Sept. .since refused lo comment to CBS network en Altica. commentator Walter Crt.nkite. Sonic of the answers may IIP gation, and a over whether the informal ion sought should he conveyed only In The AP when others in 111'1 nriu.s business are seeking the .same cial ;ire do-cil. I videotape and in material. i under the of ;in offidrd i hundreds nf still Oswald has gnmted one pri-! investigation ;md .state officials I n! thf actual n.s.sauit. Today. .'-HJITCS ul uffi-j i-i filmed Right now you can save our 1-pant suit Which should you Even at their regular prices these suits are Canada's best clothing values. Right now they're on sale. Our 1-pant suit, regularly is now Our 2-pant suit, regularly is now The fabric is imported. 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