« | Home | »

Rereading the Riot Act

Tags: |

Last Wednesday evening, when disappointed hockey fans rioted in the streets of Vancouver, I was at a performance-art cabaret I’d curated called Rereading the Riot Act II, an interrogation of the events of 23 April 1935, when the mayor of Vancouver, Gerry McGeer, read the Riot Act to protesters from the Relief Camp Workers’ Union and their supporters who were gathered in Victory Square.

The ‘relief camps’ were set up by the federal government during the Depression to absorb the high numbers of single unemployed men, and to remove them from urban centres to make it harder for them to organise effectively. They were put to work for 20 cents a day, and lived in appalling conditions. Eventually the workers rose up and 2000 of them descended on Vancouver. The protesters, who enjoyed the support of most Vancouverites but had next to nothing to live on, resorted to demonstrating in food shops to draw attention to their situation. On 23 April 1935, they entered The Hudson’s Bay Company department store and an altercation broke out as the police tried to remove them. A delegation of protesters went from Victory Square to City Hall to talk to the mayor. He had them arrested for vagrancy as they left the building, then walked the few blocks to Victory Square to read the Riot Act.

Last Wednesday, as the small audience arrived at our event so did the news that ‘they’re burning cars, they’re rioting, the city is burning.’ A woman looked up from her iPhone. ‘They’re reading the Riot Act,’ she said. Throughout the evening the sounds of sirens and helicopters merged with the performances. I later learned that the angry hockey fans had looted designer handbags from the Hudson’s Bay Company department store.

Comments on “Rereading the Riot Act”

  1. andrewcwitt says:

    anakana, this posting has prompted me to ask: where does your passion lie? — for the real or that other reel?

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • mideastzebra on Swedish-Israeli Tensions: Avigdor Liberman was not foreign minister November 2015.
    • lars hakanson on Exit Cameron: Europe will for good reason rejoice when the UK elects to leave. The country has over the years provided nothing but obstacles to European integration...
    • Michael Schuller on Immigration Scandals: The Home Office is keen to be seen to be acting tough on immigration, although I'm not sure that the wider project has anything to do with real number...
    • Geoff Roberts on What happened in Cologne?: The most surprising thing about the events in Cologne (and the most disturbing) is that some 600 incidents of theft, harrasment and rape were reported...
    • EmilyEmily on What happened in Cologne?: The author's argument is straightforward: Sexual violence is one beast; fears about migrants is another - let's not confuse the two. Alfalfa's poin...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

Advertisement Advertisement