2 March 2018

Riot, part 5.

Monday, September 27th, 1885. 

The two men arrested on Sunday at the riot were brought before the judge. Crawford was fined $25 and costs, or two months of hard labour.  William Corcoran, who was caught with a pistol, was formally charged and remanded until the 29th. 

The city council held its regular meeting the day after the riot.  The meeting began with talk of the usual matters of council.  There were some important matters with the railway, some petitions, some applications.  However, the matter of the riots the day before did inevitably come up, and even in council it stirred strong emotions. 

It began with Alderman Britton asking the Mayor if he had done all in his power to protect Her Majesty’s Catholic subjects in all their rights and privileges Sunday last.  The mayor responded that he had.  Britton then asked if the Mayor had written to or given orders to Major Draper (the head of the police) that he was not to place any policemen on duty to protect those citizens. Britton’s question may be seen as an accusation in disguise: the Mayor was a prominent and well known Orangeman, and Britton may have been hinting that as such he was either passively failing to protect the Catholic citizens, or doing so actively. 

 The Mayor stated that no such order had been given. 

Alderman Gearing then enquired if the Mayor, as Chief Magistrate, had the power to prevent procession on the Sabbath when the peace of the city was endangered thereby.  This was a matter of some importance, as all the councilors were aware that there was to be another procession Sunday next, and the violence of the day before would be repeated, and perhaps be even worse. 

The Mayor’s answer is curiousMy own impression is that I have the power, but the law officers say I have not the power. However, I shall see if I have it or not. 

It is impossible to know his thoughts here. but it would seem he is considering using his authority to stop the next procession.

Alderman Seward then stated that the Mayor undoubtedly possessed the power to prevent processions on the Sabbath, or do anything that would prevent a breach of the peace. 

The matter was then dropped for a time as the councilors discussed the city’s finances, street cars and other matters.  The matter of the riots briefly reappeared as Alderman Farley brought attention to a report about the arrest of some of the rioters.  He said there was a report in circulation that some men were arrested on Sunday for having shot into the crowd, and after having been arrested and conveyed to No. 1 station were immediately discharged.  He desired to know of the Mayor if he had any information on the matter.   

That would have been a thorny and pointed question for the Mayor.  The Toronto police had been undergoing serious reforms throughout the 1860’s and 70’s to end the historic abuses of the police.  Prior to this time, the police force had been composed almost entirely of members of the Orange Lodge (the same could be said, not coincidentally, of the fire department.) As such, not only were the Catholics of the city were widely discriminated against by the police, but any time a member of the Lodge was arrested, they were very frequently let go, as their arresting officers would develop amnesia.  That is, assuming they arrested their brother from the Order in the first place.  Farley was raising the spectre that the reforms had changed nothing, and that the Lodge and its members on the police force were still protecting their own.  This is the second time the Mayor is being questioned because of his connection to the Order. 

The Mayor responded with a denial of personal involvement: “I know nothing of the matter. I can only speak for myself- such an act was not done by any order from me.” 

Once again, the council moved on to discuss other revenue and taxes, when the subject of the riot was raised again. Alderman Spence moved, and was seconded by Alderman Cornell, the suspension of the rules in order to introduce a resolution: “That his Worship the Mayor be and is hereby requested to call a special meeting of this Council on some day during the present week, for the purpose of considering what steps it may be advisable to adapt to prevent the parading of the streets of the City of Toronto by processions with banners, and flags on the Sabbath-day, and the recurrence of such uncalled for exhibitions and disturbances as took place in this city on Sunday last to the great annoyance and imminent peril to the lives and property of out peace loving citizens.” 

Here is the crux of the matter.  Spence and Cornell are either taking the position that the simplest way to prevent another riot from occurring on the following Sunday will be to prevent another procession.   

Alderman Boustead begins speaking against the motion by questioning its legality: “Have we as a council anything to do with street processions in Sunday? Does not the law of the land deal with that matter without our interfering with it?” When the Mayor responded with some form of joke, Boustead repeated his question: “Does not the law of the land specify whether there shall be processions on the Sabbath or not?”   

The Mayor responded: “I believe not.”  

“Then how can we as a council stop such processions by adapting a resolution?” asked Boustead again.  The Mayor said the city's solicitors agreed with that evaluation. Boustead argued that, under the advice of the city's solicitors, it would not be right for the council to pass the resolution. The Mayor, however, said the Council may do as it pleased.  

Alderman Withrow thought the matter important enough to be debated.  He thought an orderly procession would not be molested, and, if molested, the strong arm of the la would take care of it.  

Alderman Spence spoke again at this point.  He said he thought that measures should be taken to prevent men, women and children from being stoned like dogs.  The Council should do something to prevent another such riot as had happened the day before.  The blame was not attributable to the processionists, but to those who were spectators. Alderman Farley said that he believed the only way to prevent another such outbreak of violence would be to increase the number of police. 

Alderman Gearing stated that a large number of citizens were much agitated in regard to the Sunday disturbance, and it was the duty of the council to adopt all possible measures to prevent any subsequent collision. It was well known that any subsequent collision of that nature would prove of a much more serious character.  He supported the motion for the council to meet as soon as possible to see what could be done. 

Alderman Sheard stated that he thought that every peaceful procession had the right to walk the public streets without being molested.  The Council may not like processions in Sunday, but they had nothing to do with the matter. The Police Commissioner had not received any communication from the Mayor in regard to apprehended disturbance, but notice was given to the police.   

The Mayor, perhaps seeing a criticism, stated that the police were there.  Sheard apologized for being compelled to say that the police did not seem to do their duty as formerly.    

Alderman Britton spoke up at this point and said the Catholics who walked in the procession were their fellow citizens, and had a right on the Sabbath to visit their churches.  That fact proved that they were good citizens, and it was cowardly for organized bands to attack those who were willing to do their duty to their God, their Queen, and their country. 

The claim that the attack was organized was a thorny issue.  Alderman Farley immediately responded to the claim, and denied that organized bodies of men caused the disturbance, which was in truth caused by some boys.   

The Mayor, who had been facing implications that he had not done enough, or that he had possibly intervened with the police to have rioters released, throughout the meeting took umbrage at Britton’s claim that the disruption of the procession had been organized.  The Mayor was a prominent member of the Orange Lodge, and the Lodge denying any kind of official involvement in the riot was going to be a recurring theme for this week.  Hence it is this accusation of the Lodge or its adjuncts organizing the riot and not questions about his personal involvement or failures that draw the strongest reaction from the Mayor at this meeting.  "Do I understand you to say that there were organized bodies, men there to oppose the processionists?"  

Britton immediately began to backpedal: "I mean there were bodies of young men at the corners of the streets."  

Mayor: "Organized?"  

Britton did not answer. Someone suggested that Britton meant the men organized themselves on the street, and Britton mumbled that was what he meant.  Apparently, the sight of an angered Mayor was sufficient to make him back down.   

The motion was put to the vote.  When the votes were counted the result was 10-10.  The motion was therefore defeated.  No action would be taken by Toronto Council about the next procession and the promise of renewed violence. 

However, there were other groups seeking other ways to stop the violence from happening again. 

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