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See the sites of 1919 strike from the seat of your bike

Bloody Saturday anniversary tour glimpse into past

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/6/2015 (676 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg's most turbulent period will mix with a scenic bike ride through the city during StrikeBike! tours.

StrikeBike! provides an opportunity for Danny Schur, the local filmmaker, playwright and Winnipeg General Strike expert, to share his knowledge of the event that continues to shape the face of the city almost 100 years later.

Playwright Danny Schur leads Strike!Bike, a bicycle tour of significant locations having to do with the 1919 General Strike.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Playwright Danny Schur leads Strike!Bike, a bicycle tour of significant locations having to do with the 1919 General Strike.

"The strike wasn't a solitary event, but an exclamation mark on an entire era -- the history of Ukrainian immigration, discrimination, World War I and mega-xenophobia," says Schur, who co-wrote the 2005 musical Strike! with Rick Chafe.

"Higher wages and collective bargaining were just the tip of the iceberg."

The three tours this weekend will mark the 96th anniversary of "Bloody Saturday," June 21, 1919, when labour activists clashed with anti-strike protesters at city hall.

The tour begins in the parking lot at 529 Wellington -- one of the city's highest-rated restaurants, and the former home of former mayor James Henry Ashdown, a businessman and a key figure in opposition to the strike.

Cyclists will pedal from Crescentwood and cross the Maryland Bridge. The Assiniboine River was a line of demarcation in the city in 1919 and still is, Schur says.

"The Maryland Bridge was a big symbol -- the people who lived south of that were the people who opposed (the strike)," Schur says. "I believe to this day it is a more accurate dividing line for the haves and have-nots of Winnipeg."

The tour heads north into West Broadway and passes Woodsworth House, at 60 Maryland St. Woodsworth was one of the leaders of the strike, and later became the first leader of the CCF, which later became the NDP.

Cyclists will eventually pedal towards the grounds of the Legislative Building before making their way north to the Exchange District.

While the neighbourhood has turned into an entertainment hot spot in the 21st century -- playing host to the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival this week -- during the Jazz Age in the early 1900s, the Exchange was an industrial and warehouse hub.

Naturally, it became ground zero for rallies and demonstrations during the strike, Schur says.

The tour ends at city hall, where crowds gathered on Bloody Saturday. Mayor Charles Frederick Gray read the Riot Act and called in the Mounties.

The clash left two men dead. The strike was called off four days later.

Two tours take place Saturday: one from 10 a.m. to noon, the other from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. One tour on Sunday begins at 10 a.m. Tickets are $20, with proceeds going towards Bike Winnipeg.

Schur says the pace is leisurely, and last year cyclists young and old took part.

Schur has given Strike! walking tours, but they're limited to the downtown area.

"Cycling gets you to see more of the city and more of the strike sites," he says. "It wasn't just a North End thing, or just a city hall thing."

Strike!, the musical, is making its own history as Schur looks forward to when the planned film version begins production. He's been raising money for five years to make the movie; a website, strikemovie.com, adds promise.

He says he's close to landing a female lead -- "the final piece to the puzzle."

"We're just trying to make it work with her schedule," Schur says, adding a bankable star, combined with the musical, will make Strike! attractive to a distributor.

alan.small@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @AlanDSmall

Read more by Alan Small.

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Updated on Friday, June 19, 2015 at 10:36 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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