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A group of irate readers expressed their displeasure with recent stories in the Niagara Falls Reporter on Friday by attacking Editor-in-Chief Mike Hudson in a men's room at the Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center.
Hudson sustained a cut nose during the attack, which took place during the Showdown at the Border, a professional boxing promotion.
"My mom's hit me harder than that," Hudson said.
Earlier Friday evening, three men confronted Hudson in the Arterial Lounge on Niagara Street, taking issue with an Oct. 9 column critical of Firefighters Local 714's lawsuit against the city.
Apparently attempting to goad him into a fight, one of the men threw his glass at Hudson, striking him in the forehead, before the three fled the scene.
About 90 minutes later, shortly before the Canadian Heavyweight Championship bout between Donovan "Razor" Ruddock and Egerton Marcus, Hudson entered the Convention Center men's room alone. For the moment.
"There was a mirror over the urinal and all of a sudden, I saw two of the guys from the bar come up behind me," Hudson said. "Next thing I know -- BAM -- my face is bouncing off the porcelain."
Hudson said the attackers again made reference to Local 714. Union Vice President David Trane cooperated by pointing out a group of firefighters in attendance to the Reporter. None were involved in the Arterial confrontation. Three men fitting the attackers' description were seen walking briskly out of the Convention Center shortly after the assault, according to a security guard.
Law enforcement sources said the investigation is centering on several members of Laborers Local 91, which has also been the subject of a series of Reporter articles. At least one suspect has been charged in past incidents of labor-related violence.
Members of both unions have provided information crucial to the investigation, and Trane said any Local 714 member who participated in such a crime could face dismissal. In addition, charges for premeditated assault carry stiff penalties, particularly if a connection with a business, union or other organization can be proven.
"Then it becomes a gang-type crime," said one source. "Instead of seven days (for simple assault), they could be looking at seven years."
If it turns out someone ordered the assault, that person could face even more serious charges under federal RICO statutes.
Several witnesses described the men seen in both incidents to police investigators.
Reporter publisher Bruce Battaglia offered a $1,000 reward for anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of Hudson's attackers.
"The First Amendment is one of the things that makes this country great," Battaglia said. "Here in Niagara Falls we have our own terrorist organization, and they've been allowed to operate with impunity for years. It's about time the proper authorities took action. What are they waiting for?"
Hudson said the Reporter will continue business as usual.
"If they think we're going to change what we cover and how we cover it, they're sadly mistaken," Hudson said. "This was a clear example of the kind of crap honest businesses around here have been dealing with for years. If anything, this is just motivation to pick it up a notch and expose the thugs who have helped make this city what it is."