Gastown riots

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The Gastown riot, known also in the plural as Gastown riots, also known as "The Battle of Maple Tree Square," occurred in Vancouver, Canada, on August 7, 1971. Following weeks of arrests by undercover drug squad members in Vancouver as part of a special police operation directed by Mayor Tom Campbell, police attacked a peaceful protest Smoke-In in the Gastown neighbourhood. The Smoke-In, organized by the Youth International Party (Vancouver Yippies)[1] against the use of undercover agents and in favour of the legalization of marijuana. Of around two thousand protesters, 79 were arrested and 38 were charged.[2]

Police were accused of heavy-handed tactics including indiscriminate beatings with their newly issued riot batons. They also used horse-back charges on crowds of onlookers and tourists.[3][4][5]

A commission of inquiry into the incident was headed by Supreme Court Justice Thomas Dohm. The Inquiry cited the Yippies as instigators of the Smoke-In, calling them “intelligent and dangerous individuals,” but was highly critical of the police's conduct and described the incident as a police riot.[6][7]

The Gastown Riots are commemorated in a two-story-high 2009 photo mural called Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971 by local artist Stan Douglas, installed in the atrium of the redeveloped Woodward's Complex.[8][9]


  1. ^ "Operation Whirlwind," Georgia Straight, Aug. 3, 1971.
  2. ^ "Gastown Riot". Canada's Human Rights History (Dr. Dominique Clément, University of Alberta). Retrieved 2015-10-15. 
  3. ^ "Aldermen seek probe of wild Gastown clash," Vancouver Sun, Aug. 9, 1971.
  4. ^ Collins, Doug (1971-08-15). "Pot and Politics: Canada and the Marijuana Debate - 1971 Gastown riots over Vancouver smoke-in" (video). CBC News. Retrieved 2013-08-31. 
  5. ^ "Photos: The 1971 Gastown riot" (photos). Vancouver Sun. 2010-05-25. Retrieved 2013-09-01. 
  6. ^ "Police charge yippie plot," by Jes Odam, Vancouver Sun, Oct. 1,1971;
  7. ^ "Excessive force cited," by Iain Hunter, Vancouver Sun, Oct. 7, 1971.
  8. ^ Kamping-Carder, Leigh (2009). "At The Gastown Riot: Vancouver artist Stan Douglas reimagines a neighbourhood’s troubled past". The Walrus. Retrieved 2013-08-31. 
  9. ^ Woo, Andrea (2012-03-02). "Gastown Timeline: From ‘Gassy Jack’ to riot to Woodward’s redevelopment". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 2013-09-01.