From Embers: 85 Years Since the Christie Pits Riot

Episode by From Embers

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85 years ago this week, in the midst of another long hot summer, a series of anti-Semitic and xenophobic provocations in the City of Toronto escalated into a full blown riot at Christie Pits. As the Nazis rose to power in Germany, a series of “Swastika Clubs” were organized out of a canoe club in Toronto and patrolled the Beaches neighbourhood with the intention of harassing so-called foreigners and to “clean up the beaches.” Tensions mounted and several confrontations were narrowly avoided.

About a week later, during a baseball game at Christie Pits, members of the “Pit Gang” unfurled a huge white banner bearing a black swastika. Jewish and Italian youth rushed the banner and tore it to shreds, and the skirmish quickly escalated into a massive riot involving hundreds of fighters and lasting several hours. Amazingly, no one was killed. The riot became a part of the mythology of the city, especially for the Toronto’s Jewish community.

Tonight on From Embers, we bring you two interviews to mark the 85th anniversary of the Christie Pits riot in Toronto. The first is with Professor Cyril Levitt, co-author of the book The Riot at Christie Pits with William Shaffir. The second edition of that book is being released this week through New Jewish Press in Toronto, with a new foreword and postscript. We discuss the historical context of the riot, including “Toronto the Good”, antisemitism, the depression, the red scare, and the rise of Nazi Germany.

The second interview is with Isaac, a member of the Toronto General Defense Committee, a local of the Industrial Workers of the World. Isaac is organizing a Commemorative BBQ at Christie Pits in the spirit of anti-fascism. He told me about the significance of the Christie Pits riot for him, anti-fascist organizing in Toronto, and the importance of commemoration.

We are also proud to announce that we have joined the Channel Zero Anarchist Podcast Network, which links anarchist podcast projects across the world. In the coming weeks we will be fully integrating into CZN, while continuing to broadcast every Wednesday night at 8pm on CFRC 101.9FM in Kingston. You can find all of our episodes and show notes at fromembers.libsyn.com. If you have any feedback, good or bad, definitely give us a shout at fromembers@riseup.net

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