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Streetcar sculpture marks 100 years of Bloody Saturday on Main Street

It's one of the most significant moments of the Winnipeg General Strike and now it's memorialized 100 years later.

It’s one of the most significant moments of the Winnipeg General Strike and now it has been memorialized 100 years later.

A replica streetcar sculpture, tilted over to show when it was being tipped, will soon be on display outside the Pantages Playhouse Theatre on Main Street.

“I was starting to think we didn’t have any memorials or any sort of way of marking the general strike,” said artist Noam Gonick.

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“The area the strike took place in was, while sacred to some, no one really knew what happened there. I began to think some kind of public art was the ticket. The idea just popped into my head one day.”

READ MORE: Exchange District Biz offering tours of key spots in Winnipeg General Strike to mark 100th anniversary

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Gonick worked with the late sculptor Bernie Miller before his death in 2017 to plan the project.

The Winnipeg Arts Council commissioned the artwork to help connect the history of Winnipeg with the present.

“It’s more than just a monument to the strike, but it makes you ask questions and it really triggers dialogue,” tamara rae biebrich*, Senior Project Manager in Public Art said.

“We are hoping that it triggers people to ask questions and it’s not just a simple read, like, this happened, but why it happened and what lead up to the events of Bloody Saturday.”

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The iconic image from the Winnipeg General Strike’s Bloody Saturday.
The iconic image from the Winnipeg General Strike’s Bloody Saturday. Manitoba Archives

On June 21, 1919 a protest outside of City Hall escalated when the crowd tipped over a street car and lit it on fire. The police and the protesters clash claimed the lives of two people.

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Mike Sokolowiski was the first Bloody Saturday victim and he was shot and killed. Steve Schezerbanowes would die later as a result of gangrene from gunshot wounds, according to the Manitoba Historical Society.

The streetcar art sculpture while it’s being constructed at a warehouse in Transcona.
The streetcar art sculpture while it’s being constructed at a warehouse in Transcona. Amber McGuckin/Global News

The materials being used are intentionally symbolic, said Gonick.

“It was iron workers who left the Vulcan Iron Works in 1919 and then the rest of the city struck to sympathize with them.”

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“So that’s why we made this piece out of metal rather than making it out of stone or some other material. It’s steel, so for me that’s really important,” Gonick said.

“I think that the 1919 strike was the struggle of this place, and maybe one of the main ones probably shortly behind Louis Riel. We have to tell the drama that’s here.”

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The sculpture will be officially unveiled on June 21 to mark the 100th anniversary.

*The person’s name of tamara rae biebrich is all lowercase and spelled correctly.

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