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Conflict And Struggle

Fierce Clash When Police Halt Parade
Sticks, Stones And Bullets Fly On Main Street
One Bystander Dangerously Shot
Five Miners Laid Low By Police Bullets

Regina Leader Post
September 29, 1931. p.1

ESTEVAN, Sask., Sept. 29. With six policeman, five striking miners and a bystander badly hurt, the streets of Estevan were finally cleared at 3:40 o'clock this afternoon following the fiercest riot ever experienced in southern Saskatchewan.

The miners, having been driven from all the streets, were assembling on the outskirts of the town.

Fearing another attack and a rush of the town hall, the badly-mauled police were re-organizing to resist another attempt.

ESTEVAN, Sask., Sept. 29. Police and striking miners clashed on the streets of Estevan today when the authorities attempted to prevent miners aboard motor trucks from entering the town and parading.

The miners, who had come in by trucks and cars from Taylorton and Bienfait, met and consolidated their forces at the Crescent mine, one mile east of town. The procession proceeded to Estevan with the avowed intention of going to the town hall where their meeting had been forbidden by Mayor Bannatyne.

When within a block of the town hall, the miners were met by a cordon of police. The strike procession drove around one block, circled around and came up to the town hall, and then the trouble started.

Mounted policeman armed with rifles and revolvers ordered them to halt and drew their revolvers.

The miners descended form their cars and made a dash for the street.


The police drew in line across the highway to resist the miners and the latter began hurling stones and clubs. The policemen, however, did not fire and slowly withdrew.

At 3:20 p.m. the fire department was called out to assist the police in restoring order.

At 3:30 p.m. the fire department turned on their hoses and began spraying the crowd of riotous miners with water.


Several Mounted Policemen and town policeman with blood streaming down their faces from wounds caused by stones, bricks and sticks are holding the mob in check by firing their revolvers over the heads of the strikers.

Six hundred striking men and women surrounded the fire engine and stopped the fire department from using water.

The big crowd then surrounded the handful of police who were still firing above their heads with revolvers at the time this telephone was received, 3:35 p.m.


Store windows along the main street were shattered by missiles thrown by the miners, street lamps broken and the street generally looked as if tornado had swept it.

The women of the striking miners took a prominent part in the riot which was largely responsible for the caution of the police in avoiding firing into the crowd.

The retreating handful of police had been brought to bay with their backs against the Estevan city hall at 3:35 p.m.

Sixteen policemen armed with rifles were hurried into the town in cars from the different mines in the area and came to the aid of their beleaguered comrades.


At 1:30 o'clock 200 striking miners mustered in Bienfait and after a short conference decided to form a motorcade and descend upon Estevan, where they are to interview Mayor Bannatyne with reference to the public meeting that has been called this evening. This in effect is considered by the miners as a parade, although it will not be the usual walk with demonstrations of banners. When the miners mustered at Bienfait no banners were to be seen.

At 2 o'clock the strikers got into lorries and cars at Bienfait and moved off to the Crescent mine at Taylorton, where they were to be reinforced by another contingent of strikers.

Several banners were displayed on the lorries and cars, among them being some bearing the following legends:

"We are going to live in houses now, not in piano boxes."

"We refuse to starve."

"Down with the company stores."

On the back of one car, one of the artists from among the strikers had painted a huge steam shovel. This, it was explained, referred to the big steam stripping shovel used at the Truax Traer Mine which is still operating. This mine is not unionized and the miners did not go on strike.

James Sloan, Dominion president of the Mine Workers Union of Canada was uncommitted as to whether the parade would be staged in defiance to the edict of council. He said at noon that the matter was in the hands of a committee. Should the parade take place, in defiance of the definite ruling of the town authorities, a clash between police and strikers will be inevitable.


These developments took place when it became generally known that the striking miners in the Bienfait and Estevan district were planning to stage a big demonstration in the town of Estevan.

It was announced by union officials that the miners would congregate at Bienfait at 1:30 in the afternoon, threading their way through the idle mining districts picking up recruits en route. From the mine fields the procession was to make its way to Estevan, where the miners were to parade through the streets carrying banners proclaiming their grievances. It was anticipated that a mass meeting would be held in the town limits addressed by members of the striker's army.


Early Tuesday morning Mayor D. Bannantyne called an emergency meeting of the town council.

The council went definitely on record as forbidding any parade or demonstration on the part of either of the warring bodies and ruled that in the event of such taking place, the situation should be placed in the hands of Chief of Police MacCutcheon and Inspector W.J. Moorehead, of the R.C.M.P.

Sloan was informed by Chief of Police MacCutcheon on long distance telephone that the parade would not be allowed. The president of the miners' organization would not say whether the parade would or would not be held.


In Bienfait large forces of the miners were mobilizing throughout the morning. In Estevan police forces made plans to prevent any act on the part of the miners in defiance to the ruling of the town authorities.

At noon the town of Estevan was waiting in suspense for any development in the tense situation. Throughout the sector police patrols kept a close watch for any signs of movement on the part of the strikers. It was anticipated that should the miners attempt to stage their demonstration that the police would concentrate at the limits of the town and prevent them from entering.


The strikers had planned to hire the town hall for a meeting to be held Tuesday night when Anna Buller, a well-known woman organizer of Winnipeg, was to speak at a public meeting on "The Truth About the Strike."

The possibility of the miners attempting to hold a public open air meeting in the city is rumored. What the attitude of the town authorities would be to such a meeting was not disclosed.

Judge E.R. Wylie, district court judge at Estevan, was in conference with Hon. Gideon R. Robertson, federal minister of labor, Monday night in Regina. No report of the conference was given but it was said that the judge is to commence his investigations into the coalfields trouble.


Recently Judge Wylie was named commissioner with full power to make inquiries into the coal mining fields of the Estevan district, and though a week has gone by the judge awaited the conference with the minister of labor before starting his work. Certain lines of procedure were laid down by the federal minister of labor and suggestions given to Judge Wylie. When the investigation is complete, Judge Wylie will report direct to the federal minister.


The official statement from the striking miners, concerning their grievances, is not ready as yet, and could not be obtained Tuesday morning.

Striking miners sat for a whole Monday in secret session at Bienfait, storm centre of the industrial battle area, while Mounted Police officers, armed with rifles, patrolled the sector and kept a ceaseless guard on the idle mines.


With a greatly augmented force, between 30 and 40 men, under the command of Inspector W. Moorehead, Regina, all precautions are being taken to defend life and property in the area in the event of riots taking place. The force is "standing to" at dawn each morning in the vicinity of the Truxa Traer mine, the only large mine now on operation in the field while sentries patrol the property at night.

Transportation is kept available for immediately rushing reinforcements to any point of the sector in case trouble should arise. Held in reserve are quantities of tear gas bombs. The whole area is being closely watched for any invasion from outside points of would be "rioters" and the roads leading into Bienfait and Estevan are being patrolled.


From James Sloan, president of the Miners' Union, came the announcement Monday morning that the miners had decided to complete a statement of their grievances, the details of which have hitherto been kept private, and make them public. He also announced that a big demonstration parade would be held through the streets of Estevan Tuesday afternoon, and that, at night, Anna Buller, the well known Winnipeg woman organizer would address a meeting in the town hall at 8 o'clock on "The Truth About the Strike." The parade may go on, but it was learned that town officials, who have previously allowed the miners committee to meet in the town hall will not allow the building to be used for this purpose Tuesday night. No application had been received from the strikers to hold a parade in the town by either Chief of Police MacCutcheon or Mayor D. Bannatyne late Monday night.


At 3:40 o'clock this afternoon, the toll of injured in the fierce riot staged by striking miners had reached 12, including five miners, six policemen, and a bystander.

Bullets laid low the five miners who were stretched out on the floor of the Estevan hospital.

The policemen were suffering from head and scalp wounds caused by missiles thrown by the miners.

Clive Butterworth, an Estevan resident and bystander, suffered a dangerous bullet wound in the groin.

Led by Inspector Moorehead, a detachment of the mounted police at 3:50 o'clock this afternoon, armed with rifles were pursuing the strikers , who had finally been cleared off the streets. They drove the sullen crowd to the town limits, firing their rifled over the heads of the retreating men and women.

During the retreat, one striker was arrested.

As he was being taken to the town cells, three of the miners' women were also arrested and placed in the cells. Two other strikers had been taken in custody previously, making six in all arrested to date.