Riot at Christie Pits

Harbord Playground team with coaches and manager, 1931. Two years later, the team was caught up in the Christie Pits riot, one of the largest ethnic clashes in Canadian history. Photo: City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Sub Series 52, Item 1492

What does baseball have to do with anti-Semitism? 

On the night of August 16, 1933, after a softball game at Toronto’s Christie Pits Park, a gang of young men unfurled a white banner. On it was a black swastika, symbolic of Nazi Germany’s persecution of Jews. It was directed at a team of mostly Jewish teens from Toronto’s Harbord Playground. Anti-Semitism had been mounting in Toronto, then an overwhelmingly British, Protestant city. Groups called “swastika clubs” had formed to intimidate Jews. The banner sparked a riot. Youth from Italian and Ukrainian backgrounds rallied to the Jewish side. The six-hour brawl marked a turning point for resistance to anti-Semitism. It led to a Toronto ban on the swastika.  

Looking down on crowds rioting in the night.
The only known photo of the Christie Pits riot, which spilled into the streets and involved hundreds. No one was killed, but there were serious injuries. Photo: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 30791