Sunday, May 08, 2005

V-E Day: When Halifax Went Wild

As the world commemorates the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe, Haligonians remember the V-E Day riots, when servicemens' resentment towards locals boiled over into an orgy of drunken fighting and looting.

From the Halifax Daily News:

By midnight, downtown Halifax was filled to bursting with more than 12,000 celebrants who had no place to eat, drink or relax. They rioted instead, setting ablaze tramcars and a police paddy wagon, smashing windows, looting liquor stores and denuding shops of merchandise. On Barrington Street, there was so much broken glass in the street it spilled over the top of the curb. One reporter who wandered through the downtown devastation the next morning compared it to “London after a blitz.”

The riots might have ended that morning as hungover sailors and civilians, many clutching their ill-gotten booty, stumbled home to sleep off their night before.

But Admiral Murray, assuming the newspapers were again trying to blame his sailors for the sins of civilians and convinced few of his men actually participated in the riots, unleashed another 9,500 sailors on the city at noon.

By the time the mayhem ended later that day — after the admiral and mayor drove through town in a sound truck ordering everyone to return to their homes and barracks, and imposing a curfew on the city — Halifax was suffering a hangover of its own.

There were three men dead, 363 arrested and 571 business pillaged. Sixty-five thousand quarts of liquor, 8,000 cases of beer and 1,500 cases of wine had been “liberated” from liquor commission shelves. The total price tag: more than $5 million, including the cost of replacing 2,624 sheets of plate glass.

No comments: