City on Edge explores Vancouver’s riotous past

Indian Taxi drivers protest alleged racism by Yellow Cab. permission via Kate Bird.

Kate Bird At Ocean Park Library 27/11/2017

Vancouver has a rich history of making its opinions and passions known and heard, whether rebellious or revolutionary.

In City on Edge, Kate Bird documents in images moments when your grandparents acted in defiance and took to the streets and rallied for change or exploded in anger.

Whether planned or spontaneous, peaceful or reactionary, these moments caught on camera are proof of the unique restless energy and constant appetite for progress.

Bird worked at the Vancouver Sun and Province for 25 years as the head archivist of photography and came across countless images of riots and labour strife.

“There were so many protests in the ’70s, I thought, ‘Oh, there could be a whole book just on protests’,” she said. A year later, City on Edge: A Rebellious Century of Vancouver Protests, Riots, and Strikes, was released.

Permission given via Kate Bird

Bird recently appeared at Ocean Park Library in White Rock to speak about her book and Vancouver’s rebellious past.

Bird said the majority of the year she spent on the book was dedicated to what was happening in Vancouver before the ’40s and ’50s.

“There were always park rumbles, Halloween riots, all kinds of things going on in the ’40s and ’50s,” she said.

Even before then, Bird managed to find countless articles and stories regarding riots and strikes but was unable to produce any imagery.

Bird asked the attendance if they thought the Stanley Cup riot of 1994 was our first sports riot, to which an elderly gentle replied, “No, we caused a nuisance at the Grey Cup riot of 1958.” That wasn’t the first Grey Cup riot – or the last – as there were riots for the 1955, 1958 and 1966 finals.

In June, 1938, hundreds of unemployed men occupied the downtown Post Office, now known as the Sinclair Centre. The images show RCMP storming the offices and bloodied protestors being evicted.

Protesters being Evicted from Vancouver Post Office 1938. Permission given via Kate Bird

In 1971 a few thousand hippies descended on Gastown for a smoke-in to protest Canada’s marijuana laws and the many local pot busts. Police moved in leading to what is known now as the Gastown Riot.

Bird was able to document anti-Asian riots from 1907 to the present day, and all the images that did not make in to the book will be on display at The Museum of Vancouver until the end of February.

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