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D.C. man sentenced to 8 years for anti-gay attack

Pleads guilty to brutal assault with metal pole

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hate crime, gay news, Washington Blade
hate crime, gay news, Washington Blade

David Morris, 33, pled guilty on May 14 to a charge of assault with intent to kill with a hate crime designation.

A D.C. Superior Court judge on July 8 sentenced a Northeast Washington man to eight years in prison for attacking and severely beating a male co-worker who he believed was making a “sexual overture toward him,” according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The statement says David Morris, 33, pled guilty on May 14 to a charge of assault with intent to kill with a hate crime designation.

“This criminal’s prejudices drove him to punch, stomp and use a metal pole to beat his co-worker,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen. “He will spend the next eight years in prison as punishment for this brutal assault,” Cohen said in a statement. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to prioritize the prosecution of criminals who express their hate through violence.”

The U.S. Attorney’s statement says that had the case gone to trial, prosecutors would have presented evidence showing that Morris and the victim, 52, were friends and co-workers at the time of the incident. The statement says that on the evening of March 14, 2015, the two men were in Morris’s apartment in the 200 block of 61st St., N.E., drinking alcohol.

“Morris interpreted an action from the victim as a homosexual overture,” the statement says. “He became enraged and threw the victim out of his apartment and down the hallway stairs, toward the first floor of the building.”

Shortly after dragging him outside the building Morris, while wearing boots, “stomped on the victim’s head” and repeatedly punched him in the head and upper body while the victim remained on the ground. At one point Morris returned inside and came back out with a metal pole and struck the victim with it multiple times in the head and upper body, the statement says.

The victim was hospitalized for two weeks while being treated for severe head and facial injuries that required multiple stitches to treat. He will soon undergo facial surgery to attempt to reverse lingering damage and the loss of feeling in the right side of his face, the U.S. Attorney’s statement says.

Court records show that Morris was held without bond since the time of his arrest on March 19.

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25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Brian's Ions

    July 10, 2015 at 6:25 am

    Why does Mayor Bowser continue to cover up news of violent anti-LGBT hate crimes in DC? What other anti-LGBT violence is Bowser and her secret police hiding from us?

    How come Mayor Bowser, Chief Lanier– or at least GLLU’s new Supervisor, Sergeant Hawkins– did not report to us news about this case, and its progress thereafter, from the time it first happened back in March?

    Was GLOV or its apparent benefactor, The DC Center, informed in another secretive communication from MPD?

    Police and government corruption can work in subtle ways. Let’s hope GLOV and TDCC haven’t unwittingly become mere PR mouthpieces for a secretive MPD under Bowser’s political control.

    “Mariner appeared to be the first to announce Hawkins’ appointment to the broader community, saying he learned about it through a police department email sent to a private list of local LGBT organizations and activists that monitor police issues, including anti-LGBT hate crimes.”

    http://www.washingtonblade.com/2015/03/10/trans-woman-named-head-d-c-gay-police-unit/#sthash.1tf8h3RO.dpuf

  2. EckingtonWash DC

    July 10, 2015 at 7:35 am

    My god! Terrible!

  3. lnm3921

    July 11, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    This is a perfect example of why I think having gay places where gay people can congregate and socialize like gay specific bars is so important. We need to be able to go places where we can feel safe to be ourselves and express interest in other men without fear of a violent reaction or scorn.

    The last thing I need is to have to walk on eggshells around other men, second guessing whether they are gay or not and if simply checking them out will get me into unwanted problems with them or others.

    I don’t feel comfortable going into any establishment and dancing with another man let alone expressing overt affection like kissing. I don’t think you can do that anywhere you want without having someone come out as offended or disgusted by it. At very least, you will get uncomfortable stares.

    • SincerelyYours88

      July 18, 2015 at 2:26 pm

      I don’t believe checking another man out is the problem. However, inappropriately touching another man that you know isn’t gay in his most private places just may be. Especially when the man whom is doing the touching is claiming to be married to a woman!

      • lnm3921

        July 18, 2015 at 4:32 pm

        Checking out another man who doesn’t want to be checked out by you can be a problem. It depends on the man. I’ve seen quite a few violent reactions, dirty looks and intimidating gestures in response to just that on a personal level on the street or other non-gay venues! Instead of ignoring your stares they stare right back at you so you get the impression they are cruising you back so you stare even more. Then it ends up with a homophobic outburst and threat!

        The point is how do I know if he isn’t gay let alone married if I meet him outside of a gay bar? I don’t and I shouldn’t have to worry about that. Heck you even have men that say they are straight working at gay bars who get angry if you flirt with them. Why work at a gay bar then?

        As for what was inappropriate touching, I wasn’t there neither were you so it’s a matter of how you interpret things but even if it was inappropriate touching and he was married that will NEVER justify the brutal violent reaction the gay man got! A simple NO I’m not gay and don’t touch me should have sufficed!

        Some gay men think because of porn movies that they can seduce a straight guy so maybe they fool themselves. How many movies don’t depict men who are married to women playing around with men? Heck it used to be like that before we could be out!

        Some men still have wives but claim to be Bi and play around with men on the side! You see it on sex internet sites all the time.

        • SincerelyYours88

          July 18, 2015 at 4:42 pm

          Yeah, but this incident didn’t happen in a public place…it took place inside the defendants home. And they both knew abt each other’s personal lives (relationship status, etc.) so the victim was well aware of the defendants sexual preference.

          • lnm3921

            July 18, 2015 at 6:09 pm

            In my own personal experience, most heterosexual men do no want to have anything to do with you once they know you are gay. I’ve had “friends” tell me they have nothing in common with me and didn’t want to socialize with me anymore especially on a one on one.

            While a guy might invite you out for a drink after work at a local pub or restaurant, it’s kind of unusual to be invited over a person’s house and be alone with him. Maybe the victim assumed the guy was bi-curious?

            Aren’t straight men sometimes guilty of assuming women want sex when they invite them over their homes?

            We can speculate ad nauseum but never know all the variables or issues that led up to this between them.
            The article said the defendant interpreted a gesture as sexual. It said nothing about specifics such as touching him in his private parts. You’re assuming that.

            Personally, unless another guy makes the first move, I never go there. But everyone is different and sees things slightly different.

          • SincerelyYours88

            July 18, 2015 at 7:03 pm

            Not assuming at all! The defendant is actually my fiance’ so I heard the story and arguments in court first hand. Just wanted the whole truth to be out since the public is only receiving one side… Unfortunately!

          • lnm3921

            July 18, 2015 at 7:48 pm

            Oh, I see now, he’s your fiancé so naturally you’re giving the public the whole “unbiased” truth from his perspective only. His side of it was never related in court. Who are you kidding?

            Were you in the room when all this happened? Did you witness what happened between them or is that what you were told? You actually saw the victim put his hands on his private parts?

            Regardless of how he was touched, your finance’s reaction was overkill and completely unacceptable. Kick him out (not literally) of the apartment but dragging him down the stairs and stomping on the victim’s head is WRONG. Nothing justifies that kind of violence short of defending yourself from murder which wasn’t the case. You should be grateful your fiancé didn’t kill him! Where would he be then?

            Stop trying to make the victim the one at fault. We are responsible for our own actions and how we react to situations in life. If it was road rage and he beat someone then it’s okay? If someone made a pass to you including groping you and he beat them harshly, that’s okay?

          • SincerelyYours88

            July 18, 2015 at 8:15 pm

            Not saying the attack is okay! Just clearing the record on the whole “gay hate” thing.

          • lnm3921

            July 18, 2015 at 8:28 pm

            Again, there is an element of gay hate when you have to stomp someone’s head with your boot. Throwing him out and dragging him down the stairs was more than enough!

            I see nothing that warrants such violence other than a homophobic visceral reaction. If another woman had groped his parts against his will would he have stomped on her head despite her knowing that he was engaged to you?

            Can you read your fiancé’s mind, too? How do you know what it was?

          • Marlon Alston

            September 17, 2015 at 4:44 pm

            We’re talking about another man that groped him, not a woman.

          • lnm3921

            September 17, 2015 at 7:22 pm

            I know what the hell we’re talking about. The fact that it’s another man doesn’t justify that kind of violent of response! Nothing will ever justify it! You want to be violent then you pay the price for it! What part of saying no and get out of my apartment is so hard?

            My point which obviously you missed is that if the attention was unwanted but made by a woman, she wouldn’t have had her he’d stomped on!

            If you did that to a woman should she hit you on the head with a baseball bat or cut it off like Lorena Bobbit did?

          • Marlon Alston

            April 25, 2016 at 4:32 pm

            Yes!

          • Marlon Alston

            September 17, 2015 at 4:41 pm

            I do agree that the violence went to far, but I would kick a guys ass too if he decided to sexually touch me. We are responsible for our own actions, and if the gay guy would’ve kept his hands to himself none of this would’ve ever happened.

          • lnm3921

            September 17, 2015 at 7:31 pm

            And you would go to jail for it rightfully, too if you did! You are responsible for your own actions.

            We weren’t in the room so we don’t know why the gay man did what he did. Maybe he assumed the straight guy was bi-curious. He may have misread the straight guy. Right or wrong, you can always say no and ask the guy to leave or call the police and file a complaint.

            Violence is the answer to all for you homophobes! We can’t even look at your with interest without you going spastic. This is the 21st century, kicking a gay man’s ass in America isn’t something you’re going to get away with anymore without consequences! So use your head instead of your fist! If you don’t like a guy’s attention walk away or clearly state I’m straight and not into you! Why is that so hard for you?

            By your “reasoning” a straight woman should be able to castrate you if you touched her and it was unwanted!

          • Marlon Alston

            April 25, 2016 at 4:35 pm

            I obviously love attention from straight women, but any man that looks at me funny will get approached end of story.

          • lnm3921

            April 26, 2016 at 12:15 am

            This story is over 7 months old and now you respond.

            If by “approached” you mean attacked physically then you will be going to jail..end of your story!

            As for “obviously” liking the attention of woman I hardly think so with that girly hair don’t! You trying to be Rick James?

          • Lamia

            August 2, 2015 at 8:08 pm

            Aren’t straight men sometimes guilty of assuming women want sex when they invite them over their homes?

            Often. And if the overture is unwanted, the women generally don’t respond by attempting to murder such men. Because that would be psychopathic.

  4. *NmySkynn70*

    July 13, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    seemed like he should have gotten more time? but at least he’s being punished i suppose. . . .

  5. SincerelyYours88

    July 18, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    It’s sad! That now days you can’t trust anyone (not even a Co worker) to come into your home without them trying to violate you, or having an ulterior motive. And by protecting yourself against the violation (in YOUR OWN HOME) you’re the one who gets punished? Who created this “gay-biased” law? It needs to be changed.

    • Lamia

      August 2, 2015 at 8:04 pm

      It is not ‘gay-biased’. If every time a heterosexual male made an unwanted overture to a female the response was attempted murder, there would be a lot of badly injured or dead straight men and you would – understandably – not be happy about it. What is it about homophobic straight men that makes them so much weaker and unable to control themselves than women?

  6. Lamia

    August 2, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    Plainly a brutal assault and attempted murder. An 8 year sentence (and obviously he won’t serve all of it) is an insult to justice. He should serve at least 15. He also deserves to be subjected to a violent assault, including beating with a pole and kicks to the head, so that he starts to understand what it was like for his victim. Once again the ‘Justice’ system shows sympathy with a violent thug and shows scorn for the victim.

    • Marlon Alston

      September 17, 2015 at 4:45 pm

      The so called “victim” is a sexual pervert.

  7. Diamond d

    August 15, 2016 at 9:10 am

    The DC system in this case has to be investigated because this wasn’t a hate crime it was a case of someone who made a unwanted advance and touched another person. What the DC court has done is give gay man the right to touch straight men and get away with it. When do we draw the line.

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In plea deal, D.C. trans woman’s killers could be free in 3 years

Two in 2016 killing of Dee Dee Dodds guilty of voluntary manslaughter

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Deeniquia Dodds, gay news, Washington Blade
Deeniquia ‘Dee Dee’ Dodds was killed on July 4, 2016. (Photo via Facebook)

A D.C. LGBTQ anti-violence group will be submitting a community impact statement for a D.C. Superior Court judge scheduled to sentence two men on Dec. 10 for the July 4, 2016, shooting death of transgender woman Deeniquia “Dee Dee” Dodds in a case D.C. police listed as a hate crime.

Stephania Mahdi, chair of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community’s Anti-Violence Project, told the Washington Blade the project has been in contact with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C., which is prosecuting the case against the two defendants set to be sentenced this week, to arrange for the submission of a statement on the impact the murder of Dodds has had on the community.

The impact statement would also apply to the sentencing of two other men charged in the Dodds murder case who are scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 20.

The Dec. 10 sentencing for Jolonta Little, 30, and Monte T. Johnson, 25, was set to take place a little over two months after Little and Johnson pleaded guilty on Sept. 30 to a single count of voluntary manslaughter as part of a plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors.

In exchange for the guilty plea for voluntary manslaughter, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to drop the charge of first-degree murder while armed originally brought against the two men. The plea agreement also called for dropping additional charges against them in connection with the Dodds murder, including robbery while armed, possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, and unlawful possession of a firearm.

In addition, the plea agreement includes a promise by prosecutors to ask D.C. Superior Court Judge Milton C. Lee, who is presiding over the case, to issue a sentence of eight years in prison for both men. Under the D.C. criminal code, a conviction on a voluntary manslaughter charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Johnson has been held without bond for five years and three months since his arrest in the Dodds case in September 2016. Little has been held without bond since his arrest for the Dodds murder in February 2017. Courthouse observers say that judges almost always give defendants credit for time served prior to their sentencing, a development that would likely result in the two men being released in about three years.

The plea deal for the two men came two and a half years after a D.C. Superior Court jury became deadlocked and could not reach a verdict on the first-degree murder charges against Johnson and Little following a month-long trial, prompting Judge Lee to declare a mistrial on March 6, 2019.

The two other men charged in Dodds’ murder, Shareem Hall, 27, and his brother, Cyheme Hall, 25, accepted a separate plea bargain offer by prosecutors shortly before the start of the 2019 trial in which they pled guilty to second-degree murder. Both testified at Johnson and Little’s the trial as government witnesses.

In dramatic testimony, Cyheme Hall told the jury that it was Johnson who fatally shot Dodds in the neck at point blank range after he said she grabbed the barrel of Johnson’s handgun as Johnson and Hall attempted to rob her on Division Ave., N.E., near where she lived. Hall testified that the plan among the four men to rob Dodds did not include the intent to kill her.

In his testimony, Hall said that on the day of Dodd’s murder, he and the other three men made plans to commit armed robberies for cash in areas of D.C. where trans women, some of whom were sex workers, congregated. He testified that the four men got into a car driven by Little and searched the streets for victims they didn’t expect to offer resistance.

D.C. police and the U.S. Attorney’s office initially designated the murder charge against Little and Johnson as an anti-trans hate crime offense based on findings by homicide detectives that the men were targeting trans women for armed robberies. But during Johnson and Little’s trial, Judge Lee dismissed the hate crime designation at the request of defense attorneys on grounds that there was insufficient evidence to support a hate crime designation.

At the request of prosecutors, Judge Lee scheduled a second trial for Johnson and Little on the murder charge for Feb. 25, 2020. But court records show the trial date was postponed to June 22, 2020, and postponed several more times – to Jan 11, 2021, and later to Feb. 17, 2022, due to COVID-related restrictions before the plea bargain offer was agreed to in September of this year.  The public court records do not show why the trial was postponed the first few times prior to the start of COVID restrictions on court proceedings.

Legal observers have said long delays in trials, especially murder trials, often make it more difficult for prosecutors to obtain a conviction because memories of key witnesses sometimes become faulty several years after a crime was committed.

“The D.C. Anti-Violence Project is disappointed to hear about the unfortunate proceedings in the case to bring justice for Dee Dee Dodds,” Mahdi, the Anti-Violence Project’s chair, told the Blade in a statement.

“A plea bargain from first-degree murder to voluntary manslaughter as well as a reduction of years in sentencing from 30 to 8 communicates not only a miscarriage of justice, but a message of penalization for victims who attempt to protect themselves during a violent assault,” Mahdi said. “The continual impact of reducing the culpability of perpetrators who target members of specifically identified communities sends a malicious message to criminals that certain groups of people are easier targets with lenient consequences,” she said.

“As a result of this pattern, the D.C. community has failed to defend the life and civil rights of Dee Dee Dodds and leaves criminally targeted LGBTQ+ community and other cultural identity communities critically undervalued by stewards of justice in the nation’s capital,” Mahdi concluded.  

William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, has declined to disclose the reason why prosecutors decided to offer Johnson and Little the plea bargain deal rather than petition the court for a second trial for the two men on the first-degree murder charge.

Attorneys familiar with cases like this, where a jury becomes deadlocked, have said prosecutors sometimes decide to offer a plea deal rather than go to trial again out of concern that another jury could find a defendant not guilty on all charges.

During the trial, defense attorneys told the jury that the Hall brothers were habitual liars and there were inconsistencies in their testimony. They argued that the Halls’ motives were aimed strictly at saying what prosecutors wanted them to say so they could get off with a lighter sentence.

The two prosecutors participating in the trial disputed those claims, arguing that government witnesses provided strong evidence that Johnson and Little should be found guilty of first-degree murder and other related charges.

Before the jury announced it was irreconcilably deadlocked on the murder charges, the jury announced it found Little not guilty of seven separate counts of possession of a firearm during a crime of violence and found Johnson not guilty of five counts of possession of a firearm during a crime of violence.

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Howard County activists and allies hit back at censorship, hate

More than 100 people attended ‘We ARE the People’ rally

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(Photo by Bob Ford)

A diverse crowd of 100 to 200 folks gathered at the Columbia Lakefront on Saturday to attend a rally to push back against censorship in the county’s public schools as well as homophobia and transphobia emanating from a group of conservative parents.

The rally called “We ARE the People” was organized in response to the comments and actions by members of a Maryland-based conservative group “We the People 2” that among other things are anti-masks, anti-vaccinations and are opposed to teaching racial history in the schools. They also oppose two books that are in Howard County Public Schools library shelves: “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy.”

Speakers at a We the People 2 rally last month at an Elkridge warehouse condemned the books, which contain LGBTQ characters, as sexually explicit. The group later filed police reports against the Board of Education alleging the books constitute pornography with “graphic sexual content and materials being used and disseminated in public schools,” according to the group’s press release.  A flier announcing this action used the loaded terminology, “We must not allow our children to be abused and victimized.”

Among the speakers at the Elkridge rally was Republican Gordana Schifanelli who is running for lieutenant governor on the ticket with Daniel Cox. Another speaker, George Johnson, a teacher from Baltimore City, was heard on a video of the event saying, “We’re doing God’s work because Marxism, homosexuality and transgenderism is the devil.”

In response, the pro-LGBTQ rally in Columbia announced the following:

We are taking a stance against hate in the community as we raise our voices in support of equity in our schools. Attacks on teachers and school staff have prompted us to stand united and drown out the noise.

In addition, We ARE the People states:

We stand for LGBTQ+ students and educational professionals

Teaching accurate history to our students

Supporting equitable practices in our schools

Providing students with relevant LGBTQ+ media through their school libraries

The two-hour rally, which was attended by several county council members, featured speakers representing a wide swath of community, educational, religious and political organizations. They included: Community Allies of Rainbow Youth (CARY), Black Lives Activists of Columbia (BLAC), Absolutely Dragulous, Howard County Schools, PFLAG-Columbia/Howard County, IndivisibleHoCoMd, Columbia Democratic Club, Howard Progressive Project, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia (UUCC), HoCo Pride, Progressive Democrats of Howard County, and the Columbia United Christian Church.

Many of the speakers denounced the censorship of materials that are needed by many LGBTQ students. Genderqueer and non-binary students, they point out, are most vulnerable and need affirming literature to help with their development and self-acceptance. The speakers also decried hate speech, which has surfaced again, as well as the opposition to teaching history as it relates to race.

Others argued that the community must not sit back and take it from extremist groups.

“You are all defenders,” said Cynthia Fikes, president of the Columbia Democratic Club, in a fiery speech. “But to succeed a strong defense also needs a strong offense.”

The two books in question were recently the center of controversy in the Fairfax County (Va.) school system. The books were removed in September from the shelves of the high schools pending a comprehensive review following opposition from a parent at a school board meeting. It should be noted that both books were previous winners of the American Library Association’s Alex Awards, which each year recognize “10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.”  

The board established two committees consisting of parents, staff and students to assess the content of the books and make recommendations to the assistant superintendent of instructional services who would make the final determination.

One committee found that “Lawn Boy” includes themes that “are affirming for students” with marginalized identities. “There is no pedophilia in the book,” the committee added. The other committee found that “Gender Queer” depicts “difficulties non-binary and asexual individuals may face.” The committee concluded that “the book neither depicts nor describes pedophilia.” The books were restored to the shelves.

“As this backlash against LGTBQ+ literature demonstrates, we must be ready to stand up and defend the progress we have made,” said Jennifer Mallo, member of the Howard County Board of Education, expressing her own point of view. “We must ensure our elected officials understand and share our values and will fight for our marginalized students.”

The enthusiastic crowd was clearly pleased with the event.

“Today’s rally was meant to inspire our community to take action,” said Chris Hefty, who was the lead organizer of the rally and the emcee. “Action that protects our youth. Action that protects our educators and admins. This action comes in the form of advocacy, communication with elected officials so they know your voice, and through well informed voting to ensure those who represent us are those we know will support us. We shared a message of love, acceptance, and warmth.”

Hefty adds, “The unity we facilitated through this rally was a sight to behold. As the lead organizer I couldn’t have been more pleased! In the future we will be sure to better meet the needs of all our community members. We thank all those in our community for their support and feedback and look forward to accomplishing great things together moving forward.”

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action

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Rikki Nathanson

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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