Monday, March 10, 2014

Battle of Maple Tree Square

Today I want you to go back to a summer day in 1971. August 7 to be exact. It was time of unrest in our city, a time when people - especially the young people - were unhappy with the ways of the establishment. Articles were penned by writers Kenneth Lester and Eric Sommer  of the Georgia Straight promoting a gathering in protest of the drug laws and recent drug raids in the area.

Hundreds of youth descended on Gastown. Many of these people were described as hippies by the media and they wandered around the area, playing music, smoking pot and generally expressing their displeasure. By 10 am, there was something like 2,000 in the area.

A crowd of this size doesn't go unnoticed. The senior officer in charge at the scene, Inspector Abercrombie, was given false information that windows had been broken so he decided to clear the scene. He ordered the crowd to disperse, an order that was ignored. That's when events started to heat up.

When the crowd failed to disperse, Abercrombie ordered four police officers on horseback with riding crops to disperse the crowd. Police officers in riot gear, supported by plain-clothes officers in the crowd, followed the mounted officers. It was chaos.

People who had nothing to do with the protest, came out of restaurants or shops and found themselves caught up in the fray. Some of the youths threw bottles, pieces of concrete and rocks at the officers. Abercrombie knew this was the beginning of a full-scale riot.

Someone has gone to the trouble of researching police reports and have made a reconstruction of events that followed the ignored order to clear the streets. Here is some of the events.

1. Officers on horses driving people into doorways and pinning them there while they lashed out at them with their sticks.

2. A young woman being dragged, screaming, by two officers who held her by the hair and one arm, about 100 yards over broken glass to a waiting wagon;

3. A police officer struck on the right leg, just below his knee, by a large chunk of cement. The crowd jeered as he staggered;

4. A young woman marching towards a group of officers shouting “You might as well take me too.” They took her. As they shoved her into the wagon, bent over so she was almost touching her toes, an officer shoved his riot stick into her seat, pushing her inside;

5. A young man cut down by a blow to his kidney area from a stick. As he slumped on the street a young woman knelt beside him crying;

6. Another youth held down on a parking lot and struck three times with a policeman’s stick. Still another boy loaded into an ambulance. He had a bloody bandage on his head;

7. A bottle flying out of the crowd and shattering between an officer’s legs. He sprinted into the crowd, raised his stick, but did not strike with it.
So much for apathetic, polite Canadians! I want to thank the Canadian Human Rights website for the above information. On Wednesday, I will tell you more.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

, , , , ,, , , , , Multiple Sclerosis


  1. Riots in Canada? I thought that only happened in the states. lol

    1. Thanks for reading Lee. Yup, we do have riots up here too! LOL