By Heather Polischuk, Leader-Post
On July 1, 1935, a public meeting in Regina's Market Square erupted in chaos.
Regina Riot, police fired bullets and tear gas into the crowd while the crowd responded with smashed windows and counterattacks on police. When the dust settled, Regina city police Det. Charles Millar lay dead while dozens more city and RCMP officers were injured.
Meanwhile, On-to-Ottawa Trekker Nick Schaack was taken to hospital with what would later prove to be a fatal head injury. Numerous Trekkers and even Regina residents who'd just come for the meeting were also injured.
University of Regina history professor Bill Brennan says while the event left no real long-term impact on the city, it was nonetheless a key moment in Regina's history. Brennan was scheduled to speak on Thursday about the On-to-Ottawa Trek and the riot during the RCMP Heritage Centre's Speakers' Series.
"It seems appropriate," he said of the talk's location during a Thursday morning interview. "The Mounted Police were involved in the events I'm going to talk about tonight, and here we are holding it in the museum that recognizes the history of the RCMP."
"All of what's been written about the On-to-Ottawa Trek and the Regina Riot have approached these events as part of the nation's history, and that's certainly true," he said. "At the same time though, these young men were here for (about) three weeks ... in the summer of 1935. So it's an important episode in Regina's history, too, and one that hasn't been written about nearly as much as the national story, and so I thought that would be an interesting approach to take in giving the talk."
Brennan gathered information from a number of sources, including a recently declassified RCMP file on the riot, which includes information on why police decided to disrupt the meeting when and how they did.
"We don't know what it might have been," Brennan said, although he added it might have mirrored actions they'd taken in other cities -- the occupying of businesses in a bid for relief. "Were they going to try to seize Hotel Saskatchewan, for example? ... We don't know, but certainly there's some indication from this (RCMP) file that there was a reason, in (the RCMP's) mind anyway, why it was important to move quickly before the Trekkers did something dramatic."