Riot of April 5, 1932
From The Daily News, April 6, 1932
Public Demonstration Turns to Riot When Order to Police to Use Batons as Doors are Forced Awakens Anger of the Crowd — Windows and Doors Smashed in Colonial Building, Nearly Score Police and Civilians Injured
Every window of the Colonial Building is glassless: the Prime Minister practically a refugee, the law of enforcement of the city turned over to the authority of ex-service men, as the result of discord which marked the culmination of weeks of protest and dissatisfaction with maladministration of the government. A huge demonstration of citizens in peaceful and law abiding protest yesterday afternoon witnessed a sudden transition, through tactless management by those in authority, to an outbreak of violence that was understandable if it could not be condoned.
At 2:15 p.m. yesterday the Majestic Theatre was filled with men and women, and Duckworth Street was a mass of moiling humanity waiting the start of the parade to the Colonial Building to present to the Honourable the House of Assembly the resolutions passed the previous night, calling on the Legislature to investigate certain charges made against the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State.
Before the parade started the audience in the Majestic was addressed by Mr. H. A. Winter, K.C., who outlined the procedure to be followed, and implored the people not to make any infraction of the law or breach of the peace, for if they did then the whole spirit of the movement would be nullified.
An announcement was made that ex-service men, Naval Reservists and members of the Mercantile Marine were to fall in first, and after these citizens in general. The route was along New Gower Street to Queen Street, down this street to Water Street, along Water Street to Prescott Street, up Prescott Street to Duckworth Street, along Duckworth Street to Cochrane Street, up Cochrane Street and Military Road to the Colonial Building. About 2,000 started in the parade and by the time they arrived at the House some 1,500 others joined in, both men and women.
Before the delegation from the Committee, Mr. J. M. Howell, Rev. W. E. Godfrey, Mr. J. H. Devine, H. A. Winter, K.C., were admitted to the House, the Guards band played several selections. At 3:30 p.m. the delegation was admitted and presented their petition. Whilst they were standing at the bar of the House, there was a commotion outside of the doors of the House and Rev. Mr. Godfrey was called out. Those outside awaiting the decision of the House, became impatient and started to break in the doors, to find out the cause.
The committee, when they were notified that disturbance was growing outside, came out and attempted to reform the parade back to the Majestic. In an effort to lead off with the flag, some of the crowd sought to prevent its removal, and a struggle occurred. Someone started the National Anthem, ex-officers of the regiment rallied around, and there was a short lull, but the struggle for the flag was renewed and it was torn from its staff and taken inside the building. The parade to a considerable number, led by the Guards band and members of the committee, returned to the hall to report the result of their visit to the chamber. These were much surprised on leaving the hall to learn that serious trouble had broken out at Colonial Building.
Soon there was a breach in the doors and as men started to force their way in, the police inside, some twenty or more, with batons drawn, hit every head that appeared. Then police, under orders, charged down the steps driving bystanders before them, many of them innocent spectators. This seemed to get the crowd going. Soon there was turmoil and the youths present got out of hand, and pelted stones and other missiles through the windows. The mounted police, because of the horses, and their efforts to keep order, made further trouble. Constable Lake, who was mounted on one of the horses, was forcibly dragged off the horse and when on the ground, hit with pickets and stones. Some of the spectators interfered and he was lifted off the ground, and put in a motor and taken to the General Hospital. Constable Layman and a civilian named Healey are also in the General Hospital. At an early hour this morning the Hospital stated that Constables Lake and Layman are suffering from scalp wounds, and Mr. Healey from an injured foot. None of these men are seriously injured.
The representative of the Daily News was on the ground floor of the building when the police charged those assembled outside the House, but from reliable eyewitnesses, the following was secured. The police, evidently acting under orders, with overcoats off, and batons drawn, charged the people hitting right and left, and doing much bodily injury. As a result of this charge O'Mara's Drug Store alone treated 15 injured, including a small child of 10 years old who was hit on the head and his ear cut.
By this time the youths in the crowd had made pretty good headway, with what apparently they thought was their job, of smashing all the windows in the building, the doors also, and the window sashes. Stones and pickets out of the park fence were used. Vandalism ran rampant. The rooms occupied by Miss Morris, Librarian of the Legislative Library, were ransacked. Her piano was taken out of her room to the park, where it was completely wrecked. Her private papers and books were destroyed, and the fittings completely wrecked. Two deliberate attempts were made to set the building on fire. In both cases the incipient fires were nipped before there was any headway. The Colonial Building last night was nothing but a wreck.
A considerable time after the House had been adjourned by the Speaker, members of the House one by one came down stairs. When leaving the building, none of the members of the House were molested. The crowd outside were awaiting the exit of the Prime Minister and the Inspector General. About 5 o'clock Mr. Cashin and Sir William Coaker left the lower flat of the building and went to Government House, where he tendered his resignation to the Governor. On Mr. Cashin's return, from the steps of the Colonial Building, he announced that fact and stated that the Prime Minister would resign today. He also said that the House will convene this afternoon at 3 p.m., and asked all the men to go home and return at that hour. The mens' demand was that the Prime Minister should resign immediately and not wait. All during this time the members of the Constabulary were not allowed to leave the building, being pelted with stones and sticks every time they made any attempt to come out.
About 7:30 p.m., the Prime Minister left the building, accompanied by Mr. L. E. Emerson, and Mr. Myles Murray, and surrounded by 10 or 12 men. Just as the Prime Minister got to the waiting car he was recognized and the crowd made a rush. Those with him hurried him down Colonial Street and pushed him into a residence. Rev. Fr. Pippy stood on the steps of the house and with him were Rev. W. E. Godfrey, Rev. Fr. Gibbs and Rev. C. H. Johnson. When a search of the house was made the Prime Minister had made his escape through a back door. Before he made his exit from the house, Rt. Rev. Msgr. MacDermott, all the priests at the Palace, Rev. H. L. Pike, Rev. Dr. Wylie Clark and other clergymen were in the grounds surrounding the House exhorting the men to return to their homes.
About 8:30 p.m. the Inspector General made his escape by way of the rear of the building, and sometime after 11 p.m. when the War Veterans patrol came on duty at the Colonial Building, the members of the police force left.
At the request of the Inspector General, when in captivity in the House of Assembly, Lt. Col. Paterson issued a call over Station VONA for all ex-service men to report for duty to take over the patrol of the city last night, according to a statement made to the Daily News last night by Lt. Col. Paterson, president of the G. W. V. A.
Five patrols of about 20 men each were placed on the street before eleven p.m. to look after the banks, the West End Controllers, Central and East End, the House of Assembly, shopping district and Government House.
Between six and seven o'clock last night about 8 men secured a crow bar and broke the lock off the gate at the East End Controllers. A little time later they came back and broke in the doors and took about 40 bottles of assorted liquor. Twice before eleven o'clock the West End Controllers was looted and a great portion of the stock removed from the building. At about 1:30 a.m. some of the crowd who were at the West End came down to the Central Controllers.
Early this morning windows in some of the stores on New Gower Street were broken and goods taken from the windows. An attempt was made to break and enter the premises of the Marine Agencies but this was frustrated by the police. A general order was issued late last night calling out for duty all members of the police force. An appeal is made this morning by the G. W. V. A. for 250 Veterans and other citizens to volunteer for duty in the city today.
From The Evening Telegram, April 6, 1932
Basement Ransacked But Police Prevent Access to Legislative Chambers — Police Injured after Latter Draw Batons
Never to be forgotten scenes of mob vengeance began at the Colonial Building about 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon. Every pane of glass in the building was smashed, doors and window-frames were battered to matchwood, furniture and office equipment and clothing were taken out and destroyed, while documents and files were strewn over Bannerman Park. The police with the Inspector General, the Prime Minister Sir Richard Squires, and members of his Cabinet were practically imprisoned in the building, until the clergy of all denominations came on the scene and restored some semblance of order.
A gathering of eight or ten thousand citizens witnessed the scene, and the locality was thronged to a late hour last night.
As usual the House met at 3:15 p.m. and the customary number lined up in queue to gain admission. As the parade of citizens came up Military Road, many women and children who were walking in advance crowded into the yard. A squad of about 30 police, including 4 mounted men, were stationed at the foot of the steps leading up to the building.
As the parade approached the gate, the mounted men used their horses and forced the watching crowd to open a wide laneway. When the parade reached the steps of the Colonial Building, the Union Jack was brought on the lower steps and an outbreak of cheering took place. Mr. H. A. Winter, K.C., Rev. W. E. Godfrey, chairman Howell and other members of the citizens' deputation to present the resolutions, mounted the steps and more cheering took place.
A wait of about 30 minutes followed. All the parade congregated in the grounds with thousands of other spectators, and a sea of faces extended to the left and right and in front of the House. The Guards band, which headed the parade, struck up the “Ode to Newfoundland” and every man and youth in the vast assembly stood with a bared head until the piece was finished. It was a most impressive sight.
The delegation then went into the House and presented the petition at the Bar.
During the delay in admitting the deputation and the further delay while procedure was being discussed in the Assembly, a section of the crowd became somewhat restless. The shouting in front caused those in the rear to press forward, and apparently with the intention of keeping them back, the mounted police took up positions in from of the steps. Angered by the attempt to force them back, a few of the crowd attacked the mounted men, one of whom had his cape torn off.
The mounted men withdrew to one side, but by then excitement and anger had obtained the upper hand, and the crowd sought to gain access to the House. In the hope apparently of persuading the crowd to withdraw, it was suggested that the colour party should move off. The intention was obviously mistaken as several insisted that the flag should remain. A struggle took place, neither side quite aware as to why there was a struggle and all intending to see that no harm came to the Union Jack.
Suddenly the National Anthem was started. It was taken up, heads were bared, and the flag went back to the steps.
The deputation having returned from the House, Mr. Winter asked the gathering to march back to the Majestic, and an effort was made to get a parade underway. A large number followed the band to the Majestic where a statement was made of what had been done in the House.
Some who were on the steps continued to attempt to get into the House, and a rush was made for the main doors. These were bolted, and about 25 constables on the inside put their weight to the doors and prevented them from being burst open.
From somewhere around the grounds, a shutter bar of iron about 5 feet long was secured. This was brought up the steps and used as a battering ram. One door panel was quickly reduced to matchwood. The police used their batons through the aperture on any who came within reach.
The crowd became more determined to get in the House, and the crush became so great that some climbed upon the shoulders of others and clamored over their heads in an effort to reach the door. Meanwhile the mounted men attempted to disperse the gathering in the yard.
The iron bar was secured by the police and taken inside. Superintendent O'Neil went outside and tried to quieten the trouble.
One of the crowd named Michael Whelan was admitted to the building. He immediately proclaimed himself for law and order, divested himself of his coat and volunteered his best service to the police. There was a lull in the tumult for a few minutes until someone secured the Union Jack which had been carried in the parade, and began battering at the door with the staff. The police used their batons with effect on those who came within reach of the breach in the door, and eventually they secured the flagstaff. The crowd then went to the fences, ripped off palings, and secured stones. A rush was made to get through the ground flat of the building on the eastern side, and a shower of stones were hurled at the windows.
About 20 or 25 police were posted in this part of the building and they kept the crowd from gaining entrance. Youths from ten years and upwards appeared on the scene and joined in the stone-throwing, some of which was done with catapults.
Meanwhile the crowd in front kept pressing at the doors and the police divested themselves of their greatcoats and prepared for a baton sortie. The bolts were drawn and the twenty five constables rushed out wielding their billies right and left on everyone alike. Scores fell under the rain of blows. Young and old were hit. The steps were cleared in less than a minute of all except those who had been felled. Some of these were taken inside, others were carried away by friends to have their bruises attended to.
Like a flame, a desire for revenge took possession of the crowd, and the police had to run for shelter within the building. Stones, sticks, and every kind of missile obtainable were hurled through practically every window in the place. There were no leaders, but the crowd appeared to divide into sections to prevent the exit of the police and executive heads of the Government.
About 4:20 p.m. a crowd of youths went around from the front to the basement on the west side of the building, and demolished the door. Missiles were hurled through the windows of the Assembly room, but by this time all the members had made their exit to another room. The stoning of the building continued uninterrupted. The mounted police then charged into some thousands of innocent people who were assembled in the grounds, and in attempting to escape from the feet of the animals, several were knocked down and slightly injured, the greater number, however, escaped uninjured by way of Bannerman Park. The paling fence separating Bannerman Park from the grounds of the Colonial Building was torn down, when many of the people fought their way to safety.
While the confusion was at its height the mounted police galloped their horses around the building, making a desperate effort to clear the grounds, and save the House from further destruction. While the officers were performing in this manner, large stones and sticks were hurled at them from every quarter, and one by one the officers were either hit by missiles or knocked off their mounts. Constable Lake was struck in the side of the head by a stone. He lost complete control of his animal, and as the horse was speeding by, somebody in the crowd pulled him from the saddle, and he fell heavily to the ground and was trampled on. Eye-witnesses intervened and succeeded in getting him safely to Military Road, where he was placed in a motor car and rushed to the General Hospital. The horse was later captured in the grounds by a citizen who mounted the animal and rode it to the Central Fire Hall. Meanwhile Constable Layman, one of the mounted policemen, was rendered unconscious by a stone which was hurled at him, and he was also removed quickly to hospital. By this time the mounted police had been completely disorganized. Two of the mounted men who had received spills managed to regain their saddles, but owing to being bruised severely about the body due to falls sustained, they were prevailed upon by citizens who were congregated on Military Road, not to interfere any further. They then turned their horses and returned to Fort Townsend.
Pandemonium prevailed after the police had been put to rout. A large number of boys kept storming the building from the outside, and it was a risk for those on the inside to show their heads out. Eventually access was gained into the rooms of the ground flat, and everything that was movable was either torn up or removed. A piano owned by Miss Morris together with some records were taken from the building and demolished. The piano was hauled into Bannerman Park, and completely destroyed. A little later two young men were seen to disappear from the House with four bottles of White Horse whisky. This was consumed in the grounds adjoining.
Later a raid was made on the private residence of Mrs. Ryall, which is situated on the ground flat in the southeast corner. A large quantity of clothing, picture frames and mattresses were taken from this end, as well as several trunks and thrown out through the window. One youth had seized the Mace and was running away with it, when a spectator grabbed him and compelled him to replace it, but another youth was successful in getting away with the sword of the Sergeant-At-Arms, and he advanced to the front of the building, holding it high in his hand. Shortly before five o'clock several of the members had made their exit from the building, and walked out of the grounds without being molested.
An attempt was made by a number of ex-servicemen to form up and prevent further lawlessness.
Messages were sent to the Anglican, Roman Catholic and United Church clergymen to come and try to restore order.
Mr. Cashin, Mr. Charles Garland, with Superintendent O'Neil tried to arrange terms of peace. Mr. Cashin went to the Inspector General and told him that if the police would give up their batons, he would undertake to see that the crowd would withdraw.
Dr. Wylie Clark made an impassioned appeal for peace. He asked the gathering to disperse as he had been informed that the Government had resigned. The crowd yelled that they would not leave without satisfaction. He then asked if they would leave if the police gave up their batons and was again answered by no.
Mr. Garland then gave the crowd the assurance of the Inspector General that batons would never again be used. The crowd still shouted that they wanted revenge and demanded that the Inspector General would instantly resign.
Rev. Mr. Godfrey, Rev. C. H. Johnson, Rt. Rev. Monsignor McDermott, and Rev. Fr. Kennedy made appeals to the people. Sir William Coaker and Mr. Peter Cashin then left the building. The clergy continued their efforts but without much effect.
The Prime Minister, Hon. Mr. Bradley and the Inspector General were within the building and the crowd were determined that they would not leave unmolested. At this point, Rev. Mr. Godfrey announced that he would take forty law-abiding citizens within the building on a special errand which he did not disclose. The crowd agreed and forty or fifty out of a large number of volunteers entered the building.
Mr. Emerson, who concerned himself in arranging the escape of some ladies and the Prime Minister, succeeded in escorting two ladies down the front steps and thence to a motor car stationed near the eastern gate on Bannerman Road. Mr. Emerson returned to the House, joined Rev. Mr. Godfrey and his volunteers, and accompanied Sir Richard out the front door and down the steps. Just as they turned to the left to go towards Bannerman Road to where the motor car was parked, the crowd yelled “There he is,” and immediately a wild rush started, and before the premier and his escort reached the car they were stopped. Mr. Emerson's pleadings were all in vain and for a time the situation was indeed serious, as darkness had set in and pandemonium reigned. Superintendent O'Neil of the Constabulary prevailed with the multitude and in a large measure his pleadings had effect.
An effort was now made to have the Prime Minister leave by the front gate in Military Road, but the progress was slow as it seemed every one of the thousands congregated in the grounds wanted to see the Prime Minister, whilst another section (small in number) were advocating violence.
Fully an hour from the time the Premier left the Assembly building until he, in company with Mr. Emerson, Rev. Fr. Pippy and Rev. C. H. Johnson (who time and again asked the people to relent in their activities to get near Sir Richard) reached the residence of Mrs. Connolly, 66 Colonial Street, and by some maneuvering the Prime Minister was put into Mrs. Connolly's house.
The mass of people waited outside for his return. In the meantime a clergyman conceived the idea of going around to a house on Bannerman street, and with assistance had the premier make his exit from the back of the Connolly house to come over fences to a Bannerman Street house and without delay placed him in a taxi and driven away. The multitude on Colonial Street awaiting his re-appearance did not believe such a ruse had succeeded, and to satisfy the infuriated gathering ten or twelve were permitted to enter the Connolly home and search every nook and corner before they were satisfied that he had made his escape as stated. Sir Richard did not suffer personal injuries, apart from jostling caused by the rushing and crushing of the multitude.
For more than an hour the people remained on Colonial Street. Mr. Emerson, Father Pippy and Revs. Godfrey and Johnson's pleadings seemed to be in vain. A slight shower of rain caused many to leave, but the throng inside and outside the House of Assembly was greater than ever, and it was long after midnight before the crowd dispersed.
Inspector General Hutchings and Hon. Mr. Bradley got out of the building unnoticed.
During the latter part of the disturbance at the House, the East End Controllers premises was smashed open and a quantity of liquor was removed and distributed before the raid could be stopped. Later about 10:30 the West End Controllers premises was raided and practically cleared of all the liquor in stock.
The police remained on the inside until 11 p.m. The first squad left shortly after 10 o'clock, when they proceeded to Fort Townsend in company with Supt. O'Neil. The remainder of the police made their departure from the House, unmolested, shortly before 11:30. The electric light was turned on in the building about that hour by Supt. O'Neil.
A squad of about twenty ex-servicemen who had been organized shortly after tea hour under the direction of Lt. Col. Paterson and Commander Howley, R.N. marched to the House shortly after 10:30 o'clock, and took up positions to guard the property for the night. They were on duty all night at the Controller's premises and various parts of the city, and rendered a very valuable service. Many spectators of the scene at the House tried to organize to keep order. Twice during the afternoon an attempt was made to set fire to the House by youths on the west side of the basement, but this was prevented by spectators.
Before the Speaker left the Chair and adjourned the House, the first stones were thrown through the windows downstairs and soon the battering of the doors leading to the Ryall residence, the reporters' room, Opposition rooms and those occupied by Miss Morris began. In less than an hour every pane of glass was broken, the stoves in the reporters' room and Miss Morris's room were overturned and a rush was made by the police and assistants to quench the fires. With pickets and sticks the sashes were smashed, the rooms were ransacked, and efforts were made to gain access to the Assembly rooms upstairs. The heavy shutters in Miss Ryall's room saved much of her furniture, but every article in Lady Squires' room, Miss Morris' room, the reporters' and Sergeant-at-Arms rooms were destroyed. Typewriters, bookcases, books and documents as well as chairs and tables were flung into the grounds and the scene this morning is likened to that of a gigantic explosion had occurred within the precincts of the Assembly building. Every pane of glass on all four sides of the structure was broken as well as those in the doors and corridors. Large stoves were flung into the Assembly chamber and Legislative Council room. It is indeed remarkable that the massive chandeliers in those rooms escaped being struck by any of the missiles flung through the windows. Several desks were broken up and considerable damage was done to furniture. The police, however, kept the crowd from gaining access to the Assembly flat, and the one above.
The damage it is estimated will be approximately $10,000. Miss Morris lost every article of furniture, and her private possessions were either destroyed or stolen. The loss to the Ryall family is also severe.