Skip to main content

The 1919 Winnipeg General Strike: Raids and Arrests

Shortly after midnight on the morning of Thursday June 17th, the Royal North-West Mounted Police (RNWMP) and a few hundred Specials raided the Jewish Liberty Temple, the Labour Temple and the Ukrainian Labour Temple (ULT). Documents were seized. At the ULT men working on the printing presses were arrested and the presses were damaged. The Labour Temple on James Street was broken into, windows and doors were smashed and the offices were trashed as the police gathered documents. Dmytro Stechyshyn, administrator of the ULT and a member of the General Strike Committee described what happened that morning:
They broke into the building like bandits, through the back door, broke down five doors, smashed drawers in the buffet, stole postage stamps and small change, tobacco, cigarettes and chocolates. They also broke into the safe and took important documents. This savage horde also ran riot in the print shop. They loaded books on trucks, destroyed the furniture and scattered type on the floor. Looking at all this it was hard to believe that so-called ‘civilized’ people could sink to such villainy.
At the same time, police raided homes and arrested men accused of being strike leaders and agitators: Moses Alamazoff, George Armstrong, Robert Bray, Michael Charitonoff, Oscar Schoppelrei, Albert Heaps, William Ivens, John Queen, Robert B. Russell, and Mike Verenchuck. Richard Johns and William Pritchard were named on the same warrant and arrested later on the same charge of seditious conspiracy (in the Police Register of Arrests, it notes the men were charged with ‘seditious libel’). The arrest warrant stated they “did conspire with intent to overthrow the constitutional government of the Dominion of Canada.” A few days later an arrest warrant was issued for Fred Dixon and James Woodsworth, charged with seditious libel for their writing about the Strike. Though the government accused foreigners or ‘aliens’ for instigating the Strike, most of the arrested men were British subjects and two were born in Canada.

Photograph of the arrested protest leaders. Back Row (left to right): Robert Bray, George Armstrong,
John Queen, Bob Russel, Richard John, Bill Pritchard. Front Row (left to right): William Ivans, Albert Heaps.
Missing: Moses Alamazoff, Michael Charitonoff, Oscar Choppelrei, Mike Verenchuck.
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Winnipeg Strike Photography collection.

Bob Russell’s daughter Mary, who was about seven years old at the time, recounted what she saw early that morning:
They, the Mounties, broke into the house – they took drawers out, threw everything from dad’s desk, they went through the drawers on the floor looking for Red literature. They thought my dad was a communist. Then they marched him off to jail, and I don’t think I will ever forget it.

As 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, Heritage Winnipeg is commemorating the year by looking back at the events during this tumultuous period of history that helped shape our city. This article is part of a series of guest posts reflecting on the some of the places that bore witness to the Strike and the events leading up to it. 
Read the previous blogs in this series:  
 

Guest post by Dennis Lewycky
Edited by Cheryl Mann and Adam Lukowski, (Young Canada Works Summer Student) on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg


Sources:
Archives of Manitoba, Winnipeg Strike Photography Collection

Comments

MORE GOOD READS

California Calling: The Buena Vista Apartments

A Brief History of the Walker Theatre

Hall-Marks The Spot: Winnipeg's Heritage in Christmas Movies