Christie Pits Community BBQ – 85 Years of Toronto Antifascism!

August 19, 2018 - 11:00 am

Christie Pits Park
Bloor at Christie

To commemorate the 85th anniversary of the Christie Pits riot, the Toronto IWW General Defence Committee Local 28, in partnership with other community members and antifascist organizations, is hosting a family-friendly community BBQ on Sunday, August 19th, from 11am to 4pm.

Join us in Christie Pits Park – the location of the baseball game where the uprising began – for food, friends, and solidarity against fascism.

Then and Now:

In 1933, six months after Adolf Hitler took power in Germany, the effects of this administration could be felt across the world. In Toronto, Jews were institutionally excluded from summer resorts outside of the city. The Jewish population at the time was predominantly working-class, and would spend their summers making use of the city’s various amenities. This sparked a backlash from the more racist and xenophobic residents of Toronto, who formed “Swastika Clubs,” whose purpose it was to marginalize Jews and others, and threaten them with violence.

On August 16th, at a community baseball game involving a largely Jewish and Italian team, a “Swastika Club” displayed a huge blanket featuring the hateful symbol of the Nazi Party. This was not the first time the symbol had been displayed at Christie Pits, and the police made no effort to prevent it. Frustrated at the police’s willingness to let open displays of hatred and incitement of violence slide, Jewish and Italian community members took matters into their own hands. In the spirit of community self-defence, they rushed to the Swastika display to destroy it, and the resulting street-fighting, which lasted until 2:00 AM, became known as the Christie Pits Riot. The police did nothing.

After this event, the mayor of Toronto warned against displaying the Swastika, and no further riots occurred. Had the Jewish and Italian people not stood up for themselves that day, there is no telling how far these “Swastika Clubs” would have gone.

85 years later, the open organizing of fascists and white nationalists on the ground in Toronto has been on the rise once again following the 2016 election of a white nationalist leader in the United States, which was quickly followed by a wave of far-right populist politics in Canada, culminating in the recent election of alt-right-endorsed Ontario premier Doug Ford. Escalating street harassment and violence towards Black, Muslim, Jewish, and transgender people in the GTA, and the apathetic police response to this hatred and bigotry, demonstrates the need for building solidarity and self-defence capacities among Toronto’s diverse communities. We must look back at the struggles of the past, and toward a future of freedom and dignity for all people.

This event will be child-friendly and we welcome and encourage families to come out. We will be in a picnic area next to the playground. Some food will be provided by the Apple Crisp Action Brigade – a food serve group affiliated with IWW GDC local 28. Potluck dishes are more than welcome.

We are still in the process of securing a barbecue for the event, if you or someone you know has a pick-up truck please shoot us a message!

Speakers for this event will include Carolyn Egan of Steelworkers’ Toronto Area Council – STAC, Akia Munga of Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance, Jack of the Toronto IWW General Defence Committee, and hopefully more to come.

We will have a few speakers from various groups united in solidarity against racism and fascism, and hopefully live music (we’re working on it!). Come by to eat, play ball, toss a frisbee, play music, and help to strengthen our community with food and friends!

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