Saskatchewan News Index
Top News Stories

Conflict And Struggle

Eye-Witnesses Tell Dramatic Story Of Dominion Day Riots

Regina Leader Post
December 11, 1935. p.10

A dramatic story of how he stepped out of a dark alley into Eleventh Avenue and was shot three times by a man he believes to be a Royal Canadian Mounted policeman, about 10 p.m. on the night of July 1 last, was told to the riot inquiry Tuesday afternoon by Gordon H. Phillips, young On-to-Ottawa trekker from Vancouver.

Phillips, still under treatment at Regina General hospital, used a cane to walk to the witness stand. He was shot in the left leg once, and twice in the right leg below the knee.

At this point, where the witness said he was left wounded on the ground, the inquiry adjourned for the day, to continue Wednesday.

EYE-WITNESS EVIDENCE

Eye-witness evidence of the beginning of the riot on Dominion Day at market square occupied most of Tuesday. S.V. McKinnon, Regina youth, who is charged with inciting to riot and assaulting a constable, told how he was arrested.

J. M. Toothill, Regina alderman-elect who was speaking at the market square riot just before the riot broke out, told his story and was praised by Chief Justice Brown, chairman, for his manner of giving evidence. "We consider you a very fine witness," said Chief Justice Brown, "and we are very pleased with your evidence."

William Curtis, unemployed garageman, was another eye-witness of incidents on market square, and Mrs. Christina Metcalfe told of seeing four policemen beating "a young fellow."

STEPPED INTO DOORWAY

Phillips, the trekker who was wounded, was in the crowd on market square, he said, when the police rushed from city police station. He was carried with the crowd off the square and reached Broad street via Tenth avenue. He stepped into a doorway as mounted police rode by on the sidewalk. Turning down South Railway street he met some strikers who told him police were blocking that approach to the stadium. They turned south, he said, with idea of getting to Thirteenth avenue to get back to the stadium that way.

"On Eleventh avenue," he continued, "Mounted police on foot rushed us." A battle ensued. Automobiles parked on the street were set across to form a barricade "to prevent police attacking us." The "Mounties" were repulsed, but came back. Phillips then ran south on Cornwall street, cut across a lot, turned into an alley and, gaining Eleventh avenue again, was shot. It was dark, but he thought the man who shot him was a Mounted policeman as he noticed his leggings and boots.

SCREAMED 'MURDER'

Mrs. Metcalfe was at the market square meeting with a friend. She saw three "Mounties" and a city policeman "beating up" a young man. She held her hands to her head and screamed "murder." The young man was down on the ground, his shirt around his head, his trousers pulled down. "I saw his bare back," she said. Two of the police were beating him as others held him. She said the city police officer was Sergeant Logan.

Mrs. Metcalfe was hit on the knee by a block of wood and knocked down. Two young men helped her to the city police station and she returned alone to her home at the Maple Leaf block, Halifax street and Eleventh avenue. The lady next door was "in hysterics" and wanted her to help look for her son. They went to the General hospital in a taxi, but the neighbor's son was not there. Mrs. Metcalfe was treated for her injury and Inspector Toop, of the city police, sent her home. She was lame for two weeks.

HELPED HOLD BACK CROWD

Mr. Toothill, having just spoken at market square, was looking for a glass of water when the police charged. He jumped off the truck that served as a platform. A woman with a youngster fell down and he helped hold back the crowd till she got up. He reached Osler street and went north to Tenth avenue. There was scattered fighting on the square then. "I saw a fellow with a two-by-four chasing a policeman and crowd began to join in." Police were driven back to Halifax street and they began to throw tear gas bombs. He heard talk of strikers forming to march back to the stadium. He went to Rose street and went home.

THOUGHT EVANS WRONG

Cross-examined by Frank Cunningham, strikers' counsel, he said he had talked frequently with strikers before July 1. Only one said he was a Communist. There were C.C.F. supporters and Liberals among them, but he knew of no Conservatives. "The majority thought Evans was wrong" as far as his ideas concerned, "but thought he was a grand leader."

Trekkers' purpose, as he understood it, was to get out of relief camps. "They talked of the food, conditions in the camps, and of being shut away." They were going to Ottawa because they believed they had been promised in 1930 the camps would be ended.

Just before the July 1 meeting he was at Unity Centre and heard strikers talking of being broke and that they would have to go back to the coast soon.

From the speakers' platform, it did not appear to him, he said, that the police were heading towards the platform as they came out of police station. The commissioners ruled out Mr. Cunningham's question: "Did the police appear to be coming to arrest Black and Evans?"

SAW CLOUDS OF TEAR GAS

William Curtis said he was trampled in the crowd on market square July 1. As he turned "to beat it" he went down, and saw another man and a boy fall. He reached Osler street and saw clouds of tear gas on the square.

"I saw," he said, "a grey-haired old man trying to get up and a Mountie came over and whacked him." Someone he took to be a striker helped the old man, and several in the crowd said; "Look at that." A couple of men ran over and the Mounted policeman backed away, swinging his club. The old man got up. Curtis moved to Eleventh avenue to avoid the gas and saw R.C.M.P. coming up on horses. He went in the St. Regis beer parlor to wipe his eyes. He was there 20 minutes. At the B.A. oil station, corner of Eleventh avenue and Osler street, he saw a man back up to the wall with his hands raised "and a Mountie hit him."

HIT BY RIDING CROP

S.V. McKinnon was hit by a riding crop in the market square disturbance and had "a bump for two weeks." He said he saw three groups in which police had persons down "hammering them." One of these was "a well-dressed man, not a striker, being beaten unmercifully." He reached the corner of Halifax Street and Eleventh avenue and saw a policeman on the ground "getting beaten up." His assailants were using their fists. "I heard him groan."