RIOT AT FREMANTLE
STRIKERS OUT OF HAND,
MANY PERSONS INJURED
SYDNEY, May 5. A very serious position has developed at Fremantle. There was much fighting there yesterday, beiv/oen tho police and large mobs, and authority seems to haA ro been successfully defioJ. There was a, strike at Fremantle a considerable time ago, juid the. wharves were eventually worked, and tJio strike broken by voluntary workera, and the Government promised it would stand by these men, who were known as. Nationalists. Lately* ■■ the militant unionists havo agita.lod strongly against the continued presence of the- Nationalist workers ■on tho wharves, and they finally won."'l on strike. They declared they would allow no work" to be done on tho wharves until the Nationalists wore romoved. The Governmesnt resolved that the wharves should be worked by the Nationalists, under j^olicc pro^vjotion and behind barriers. Tho trouble ■ culminated yesterdaj' when an attempt was made to erect barriers..
Arrangements, carried out with ' a considerable degree of secrecy, had been, mad© to , bring a batch of ■volunteers from Perth to erect the barriers, and the first intimation that the lumpers intended to precipitate a conflict was when a number of motors conveying some of the volunteers was being driven across the North Fremnntle bridge, where they were mot with a fusillade of stones' from hvmpers, who' had concealed themselves behind the bridge embankment. One of 'the cars was driven by a lady, who, with two others, was hit in tho body by tlia missiles. Some time later a launch 'with more volunteers wds sighted, and a large body of lumpers assembled on the railway bridge. Immediately it was seen that the men premeditated trouble, police were despatched to remove them, but they wore there in such numbers that the constables were powerless. The crowd, which included a number" ■of women, were armed witih missiles of every description. When the launch passed under the bridge it was subjected to a fusilladle of stones and .other missiles, without, however, doing injury to the occupamts. Having passed the bridge the launch proceeded on its way down stream. LAUNCH PARTY "UNDER | FIRE."1 In the meantime tho crowd on the road bridge had signalled _to their comrades on the railway bridge. A mixed crowd ran madly along the edge of tho river bank, keeping parallel, with the launch," shouting to the men stationed! cm tho bridge, "Not to let the 'scabs' pass/ A squad of foot police; had been despatched1 to the railway bridge armed with bayonets, but they wore greatly outnumbered by lumpers and their sympathisers, and were powerless to force the - crowd from the bridge. Three police attempted to make their way along the narrow iootway, but the crowd stood its ground and jeered «.t tho constables. As the launch came within stone'sthrow a fresh volley of road meital was hurled at the occupants, and as she passed underneath, tho bridge span great boulders a.nd! heavy pieces of iron wero dropped oil hor deck. The launch was considerably damaged, ono heavy piecs of iron penetrating the bridge deck. The occupants, however, escaped injury, but several had miraculous escapes. As soon as the launch passed safely through tho bridges the men and women vho had" been storming_ it> surged past tho police almost frenzied with excitement, and camo charging down tho wharf. Tho foot police ad- j vane&d tt> meeb tho surging crowd, a number of the mounted police being called to reinforce their comrades. For a time all was confusion and disorder. As tho mem continued to throw stones the police retaliated. Men wero seen Jto fall on both sides, and it was not long before several of •the police andi these men were trampled underfoot by the excited crowd. OROWD IN STATE OF, FRENZY. Early in tho encounter three policemen were disabled, two of them receiving ugly gashes over their eyes. Eventually the lumpers were forced off tho wharf, and the crowd then took up a position in. the Fremantlo railvay yards, from which position they continued to hurl missiles. Both tho president of the union and the secretary of tho Trades Hall received injuries in the conflict, and this, together with the fact tfliat a 'returned soldier had been bayoneted, had worked tho crowd up to such a state of frenzy that tho situation had become desperate. Overwhelmed by superior numbers, it was realised that the police could hold out no longer against tho lumpers unless cither they were provided wii'li weapons such as might have an effect to ovoruwo tlv3 crowd. Up to this stage the majority of the police had only used their boA'oneiSß, while tho remainder were being provided with rifles and bayonets. No. cartridges had. been handed! oufc to the men,_ but when things became desperate it was decided to road tho Riot Act*. Cartridges were then handed out to that section of tho police armed with rifles, and these men took up a j position facing the crowd: At this j critical juncture Inspector Sellenger j approached the men, his appearance j being greeted" wiiih cheers from a : portion of the men. He appealed to them to remain quiet foir 10 minutes, and ho asked that their leaders should come forward and confer with the Premier. This was agreed to by the men, find the officer mentioned, after appealing to tho men to remain calm, went across and consulted with tho Commissioner of Police and authorities. It was pointed out that tho Government was anxious to avoid any bloodshed. Mr McCallum replied 'that there was not the slightest hope of keeping the men back in their present mood. If tho Premier would give his assurance that no Nationalists were left on the wharf ho would go back and get the consent of tho men to agree to an armisticn, for half an hour. SEVERAL SHOTS FIRED. By eleven o'clock the crowd hnd ronohe'l enormous proportions. Tho wonioiu. appeared to 'bo oven more d(«;pi'i-a.t.o than tho mon. Tlvev wore |in the front ranks. The crowd, fully 2000 strong, advanced towards^ tho police, ami tho latter immediately charged, and: were again met with n voltey of ror.d metal and coal. Sonic [of the mounted S'.ien also sot their I horse* at a gallop towards tho I crovrd. an'! in the1, oncoi'iitrr "that, f'oll Imred sovoral of tho- police, and lump--5 era were in.iuv.pd. One of the latter, a returned suldisr, sustained a nasty
gash in the thigh as tho result of a bayonet thrust. Several shots were fired by someone in the crowd, and a little later, when the mounted men again charged iUong the goods shed enclosure, one of the constables was fired at twice in quick succession. Afto;* further parley between the Premier, tho Commissioner of Police., and the lumpers' delegates^ Mr Colebatch said that if the lumpers would agree not to indulge in further violence he would givo his assurance that no more work would be done by volunteers that day. This was agreed to by the moil's representatives, and on receiving an assurance that the voluntears would not be molested on the return trip up the river, the Premier and the whole of tlie volunteers took their departure. At tho conclusion of the melee Mr Donnis, vice-president of tho executive of the R.S.A., addressed a lair go gathering of returned men, who carried: tihei following resolution: "That we as returned soldiers' are prepared to defend the rights of tho public against the tyranny of the present Government, and to avenge tho blood of our wounded comrade."
In tihe afternoon a body of about 4000 unionists paraded tho main streets, and wrecked the employment buvea.ii on tho wharf, destroying all the books.
In all, 33 casualties aro reported, 26 of them being police.
Permanent link to this item
RIOT AT FREMANTLE, Marlborough Express, Volume LIII, Issue 121, 23 May 1919
RIOT AT FREMANTLE Marlborough Express, Volume LIII, Issue 121, 23 May 1919
Using This Item
See our copyright guide for information on how you may use this title.