Favourite local public art piece

Photo by Daniel Crump

1. Forever Bicycles by Ai Weiwei
2. Bloody Saturday by Bernie Miller and Noam
3. Chip’s Vintage mural by Hanna Reimer

On June 21, 1919, a critical mass of 6,000 strik - ing workers occupied Winnipeg’s Main Street.

Then things got bloody. A streetcar trans - porting scab labour incited fury in the striking crowd. The car shook from side to side by the force of protesting shoves. Windows shattered onto the pavement. A fire ignited.

Eventually, a mob of Mounties stormed Main Street to break up the chaos – some firing directly at striking workers. Around 45 injuries and 94 arrests later, the military took control of the streets. Two strikers – Steve Szczerbanowicz and Mike Sokolowski – died after being shot.

Noam Gonick wants to make sure the legacy of the Winnipeg General Strike never fades from the public consciousness.

That’s why he and the late artist Bernie Miller took it upon themselves to construct Bloody Saturday, a steel and glass rendition of the tipped streetcar installed just steps away from the historic action.

“I wanted us to make something that would be very public-facing and would cause new generations, new arrivals to Winnipeg and new Canadians to question their history,” Gonick says.

It all came together with the help of Ironworkers union members who transported sheets of glass and steel beams from Transcona to Winnipeg’s urban core. While waiting for the windows to be installed, Gonick hauled a sleeping bag and slept in the car “like a mummy sarcophagus.”

As Gonick explains, there’s a reason the lights are always on in the streetcar, even if no one’s home. “It’s always illuminated, and the lights are supposed to stay on day and night,” Gonick says. “The reason for that is that we never want the sun to set on those issues. We always want to shine a light on the importance of labour rights.”

After all, “It took some people sacrificing their lives so we can have some of the rights we enjoy today.”

Published in Volume 77, Number 12 of The Uniter (December 1, 2022)

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