On this day in 1919…
The Federal Government makes revisions to the Criminal Code, broadening the definition of sedition, and allowing the arrest of any member of an “unlawful organization” suspected of conspiring against the Dominion of Canada.
The next day, in the early hours of the morning, hundreds of Royal North-west Mounted Police (RNWMP) and special constables raid the Labour Temple and the Jewish Liberty Temple. The men seize documents and destroy the furniture within the buildings. They also confiscate a list of subscribers to the Western Labour News from the Strike Committee’s printing press.
Shortly after, another group of RNWMP officers arrive at the homes of ten prominent Central Strike Committee members with warrants for their arrest. The leaders are pulled from their beds and are charged with seditious libel.
Among those arrested are Robert B. Russell, John Queen, Abraham A. Heaps, Roger Bray, Rev. William Ivens, and George Armstrong.
A few days earlier, Helen Armstrong, along with two other female activists, Ida Kraatz and Margaret Steinhauer, were arrested for disorderly conduct after assaulting two Winnipeg Tribune employees. The two employees had violated the conditions of the labour strike by selling newspapers in the streets.
The RNWMP also accuse Mike Verenchuck, Moses Alamazoff, Michael Charitonoff, Oscar Schoppelrei, and Sam Blumenburg of being foreign agitators and spreading communist ideas, even though they had very little involvement in directing the labour strike.
After hearing about the incarceration of the strike leaders, labour workers throughout the city congregate in Victoria Park to protest the actions of the RNWMP, directly ignoring the parade ban issued from the mayor.
Three days later, a few of the British-born strike leaders are released on the condition that they no longer take part in the strike. The arrested men with Eastern-European heritage are denied bail.
In Old Market Square, groups of angry strikers and pro-strike veterans gather together to discuss retaliation. Without the Central Strike Committee’s authorization, they organize a silent march of solidarity on June 21st and spread the word to unionized labour workers and pro-strike groups throughout the city of Winnipeg.