The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 is eerily similar to the police violence against protesters at the Toronto G20
The use of extreme violence by police against Canadians protesting for social reform has a long history.
The recent G20 police action reminded me of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike when mounted police injured 30 people and killed two when they charged into the peaceful crowd.
The government and the media have tried to label the G20 Toronto protesters as foreigners, anarchists while 99% of them were Canadians concerned about the widening gap between the poor and the wealthy.
A general strike started soon after World War I ended. Returning service men added to the already high unemployment rate. Businesses were reaping record profits but working conditions were miserable.
A workers committee of public service unions tried to negotiate with the City of Winnipeg for wage increases. A Senate report recommended that the City negotiate but the City broke off negotiations.
On May 15, 1919, the public service unions were joined by the building and other trade unions in a general strike. 22,000 worker walked off the job and ground the business of Winnipeg to a halt.
A committee of business and civic people lobbied the government to break up the strikers. The strikers were called communists, agitators, foreigners, anarchists, aliens, bohunks and Jews.
The Citizens Committee convinced the government to stop the strike at all costs.
The RCMP were called out on “Bloody Saturday” to charge into the crowd, beating the people with clubs and firing their weapons. Two strikers were killed and more than 30 injured. The strike leaders were arrested, some deported and some jailed. One of the arrested leaders was J.S. Woodsworth, who later founded the CCF party now known as the NDP.