JUNE 21ST BLOODY SATURDAY
On this day in 1919…
Ignoring the parade ban issued by Mayor Charles Gray, groups of labour workers and pro-strike veterans declare they will hold a “silent march” in respect for the arrested leaders of the Central Strike Committee. The mayor, fearing more violence will ensue, calls on the Royal Northwest Mounted Police and the military to keep order. The press discourages people from attending the march and publishes an appeal from the Mayor.
However, word of the march continues to spread throughout the city. By the afternoon, approximately 25,000 people gather downtown, both to march in solidarity and witness the demonstration.
In a final effort to restore order, Mayor Gray reads the Riot Act and orders for the militia to clear the streets and break up the demonstration of strikers.
Mounties charge into the crowd several times on horseback, swinging clubs and firing their guns. Unarmed strikers try to defend themselves by throwing bricks and bottles from the street. Mike Sokolowski, a tinsmith standing on the street, is shot in the heart and dies instantly. Another immigrated worker, Steve Schezerbanowes is also shot in the leg and later dies of gangrene poisoning as a result of his wounds.
One group converges on a street car that had started its run, tipping it on its side and setting it on fire.
Brigadier-General H.D. Ketchen, patrols the streets. He is accompanied by military men and a group of mounted cavalry in trucks, equipped with Lewis machine guns. “Special constables” on foot also join the commotion and attack strikers in alleyways. Approximately 30 bystanders and veterans are injured and close to 100 individuals are arrested at the scene.
Days later, in the Monday issue of the Western Labour News, Frederick Dixon compares the events of the Winnipeg riot to the “Bloody Sunday” assault on the Russians by Czarist soldiers in St. Petersburg. June 21, is furthermore remembered as “Bloody Saturday” by residents of Winnipeg.
Shortly after the issue is published, both Dixon and J.S. Woodsworth, who had taken over writing the Western Labour News on behalf of Rev. William Ivens, are also arrested on charges of seditious libel.
In Ottawa, Sen. Robertson declares that the Federal Government will not resume negotiations with workers until the strike is called off in Winnipeg.