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The Colonial Building: "If These Walls Could Talk"
Construction and Interior

Noteworthy Events

Debates and Demonstrations

Landmark Moments

Post-Confederation Era

Debates and Demonstrations

The Colonial Building is also famous as the site of heated debates and political controversies. Sometimes these events became too heated to be contained within the walls of the Building and the public were incited to riot. Many scenes of violence have occurred on the grounds surrounding the Building with varying degrees of damage to the Building itself, and in some instances to human life also.

Colonial Building During Riot, 1932.
Courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL A2-160).
(23 kb)

The most famous of these disturbances was the Riot of 1932. The crowd that gathered in front of the Colonial Building on April 5th of that year, came to express their concern and displeasure with the manner in which the Government was administering the affairs of the Colony. The gathering was huge and they were soon out of control.

What had begun as a peaceful demonstration had quickly escalated to a full scale riot. Every window in the building was beaten out, furniture was dragged from the Colonial Building and destroyed on the grounds, and the members of the Government, who were still inside the Building, feared for their lives. The Police responded to the mob with more violence, beating back the rioters with their batons.

The Prime Minister, Sir Richard Squires, barely escaped the Building. Though accounts of his escape vary, it seems that he waited until 7:30 that evening when the mob had quieted down and exited the Building by the front door to make his way to a waiting car. Some of the rioters still lingered in the area, and upon recognizing the Prime Minister making his escape, they charged at him and he had to be spirited into a house on Colonial Street. The rioters pursued Squires into the residence, but by the time they had gained entry he had made his escape through the back door.

The result of the riot was a tremendous amount of damage to the Colonial Building, at an estimated cost of $10,000, not to mention the numerous personal injuries which were suffered in the affray.


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