Ed Barrett talks about the reading of the Riot Act on Bloody Sunday in 1911

Resource Type: Audio | Posted on 22nd July 2011 by Liam Physick

Ed Barrett draws the audience’s attention to a photograph taken on Bloody Sunday in the 1911 strike. There is a peaceful gathering outside St. George’s Hall, including children playing cricket, and a magistrate is about to read the Riot Act, allowing the police and army to use any means necessary to make the crowd disperse (unless it disperses voluntarily within an hour of the proclamation). Yet, as Ed points out, the gathering is quite clearly peaceful - the people have even made a path to allow the magistrate to walk up to read the Act - so the reading of the Riot Act was clearly done simply as an excuse to force the crowd to disperse (Note, however, that though Ed here is under the impression that the Riot Act is still in force, it was in fact repealed in 1973 and was last used in 1929)

Interviewee: Ed Barrett

Interviewee Gender: Male

Interview Transcript

Big rally at St. George’s Plateau, where, fairly peaceful demonstration, some of the pictures, they actually show kids playing cricket, with men and women around watching, almost like they’re at a proper sporting event, actually against some of the pillars of the statues and there’s also a telling photograph, where one of the officials of the city is marching up, with a piece of paper in his hand, and there’s a line, almost like, you know, they’ve made a path for him to walk up to address the crowd and what he’s got in his hand is the Riot Act, and he’s, he’s walking up to, you’ve heard the phrase, “to read the Riot Act” (murmurs of assent from the audience). Once the Riot Act is read, it’s declaring that gathering a riot, and it can be treated as such by the police and military, and they did, they treated it with force, and a lot of people ended up hospitalised, you know, in the hundreds, or thousands even, on, on the workers’ side, not very many from the police or the army. But in the photograph, it’s very obviously not a riot, you have kids playing, you have a very peaceful line of people stepping back to allow this official to walk up, so, the very fact that it was declared a riot, is literally just to allow force to be used to suppress it.

Tagged under: 1911 strike, army, police, bloody sunday, riot act, st. george's plateau

Categorised under: Work & Industry

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