Saturday, March 01, 2014

The Real Stories

A lot of what happens in Black Rock is based on actual events. The first couple of events mentioned in the book are the riot at Sir George Williams University (in the Hall building, where I had a lot of classes in the 80s) and the bomb at the stock exchange.


Wikipedia describes the events at Sir George like this:

Beginning on January 29, over 400 students occupied the university's computer lab. The occupation was sparked by the university's mishandling of racism allegations against professor Perry Anderson at the school. Fed up with what they considered to be intransigence on the part of the administration, black and white students left a meeting and occupied the university computer lab on the ninth floor of the Henry F. Hall Building.

Most of the occupation was quite peaceful: the police were not involved, and negotiations continued. Some claim that the computer lab was not damaged, except for several million computer punched cards that were sent fluttering to the street below; but a Canadian Broadcast Corporation documentary shows smashed computer tape drives and extensive fire damage. The damage was listed in millions of dollars. It is unknown who caused the fire. The police accused the occupiers of the damages, while the occupiers accused the police of setting the fire as an easy way to get all the students out of the room without physically entering it. Other students also claim that they saw police locking doors and exits that were normally open and police confiscated fire axes from students the day before the fire was set.

The occupation continued until February 11 when negotiations broke down and riot police were called in. A fire broke out in the computer lab, forcing the occupiers out of the building. 97 of them were arrested. The computer lab was destroyed, resulting in over $2 million in damage. Windows were broken and computer tapes and punched cards tossed onto the street below. The charges against most of the rioters were eventually dismissed.

Among the occupiers arrested was Roosevelt Douglas, who later became Prime Minister of Dominica, and Anne Cools, now a Canadian Senator. Also deeply involved was student Cheddi "Joey" Jagan, Jr., son of Guyana's prime minister.


Two days later a bomb went off at the Montreal Stock Exchange in Place Victoria.


Some people described it as a “miracle” that no one was killed. 27 people were hospitalized.

The New York Exchange had closed early that day so quite a few people from the Montreal exchange were sent home, among them the “phone boys” whose work station – a row of desks along the wall – was destroyed in the blast.

What really surprised me about the stock exchange bombing was that although a huge hole was blown in the side of the building and there was an estimated two million dollars of damage to the trading floor and offices, the building was open again the next day.

Busy days for the police on the front lines, including Black Rock’s, Eddie Dougherty.

1 comment:

John McFetridge said...

Kristian Gravenor has some good stuff about the Sir George riot on his Coolopolis website: