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Memento : Issue 30
set up in Queensland in 1917 under the guidance of Captain George Frederick Ainsworth. The same year, the federal government moved to ban any public displays of the red flag, which was flown to demonstrate solidarity with the Bolshevik cause. The police granted the Brisbane Industrial Council a permit to march on 23 March on the proviso that the red flag would not be flown. Most of the demonstrators were Russians and members of the One Big Union Propaganda League (OBUPL), a radical organisation of workers. Despite an announcement reminding the crowd of the conditions of the march, Russian Association members Herman Bykov and Alexander Zuzenko defiantly unfurled three large red banners. Smaller flags were also distributed amongst the crowd. Attempts made by the small police contingent to halt proceedings proved futile, and the marchers headed off along the well-worn route singing loudly. At the end of the march, radicals and politicians spoke to a rowdy crowd at the Domain. That evening, a meeting of the OBUPL was disturbed by a group of angry returned soldiers. Determined to ‘clear this scum out of Brisbane’, they singled out Russians at the meeting for violent attention. The mob then made its way across Victoria Bridge to Merivale Street, South Brisbane, where many Russian homes, boarding houses and businesses were located. As they approached the Russian Hall, shots were fired from a side lane at the rioters who scattered in panic. The police intervened, trying to protect the Russian dwellings. They advised the mob to retreat. ‘Bolshevik outbreak ... Police and soldiers badly mauled’ ran the sensational headlines of the conservative Daily Mail the following day. The paper advertised a mass loyalist meeting to be held that evening. Returned soldiers were encouraged to attend to ‘put down Bolshevism in Brisbane for good and all’. That evening, 7,000 people packed into North Quay for a loyalist meeting. Many Russian inhabitants of South Brisbane sought refuge elsewhere in the city. The crowd was noisy and volatile, and at some stage a portion of returned soldiers and ‘a greater number of hoodlums and curious persons’ broke away and made their way over the river to South Brisbane, with plans to ‘root out the Russians and destroy their quarters’. Over the next two hours, Queensland police defending Russian premises clashed violently with the mob. Mounted police charged the crowd, who responded angrily with wooden palings, bricks, stones and bottles. People were forced onto bayonets in the crush, and gunshots rang out amidst the commotion. The Russian Hall and a number of Russian-owned businesses suffered substantial damage at the hands of the unruly mob. In his report to the Special Intelligence Bureau, Captain Ainsworth cited injuries and casualties as follows: ‘2 police and 1 soldier wounded by bullets, and 14 casualties caused by stones or sticks or horses’. It is thought that a number of injuries may have gone unreported. Unrest in the city continued for several days, with certain individuals singled out for rough treatment, and threats of vigilante action levelled at the government by loyalist groups. The federal government seized upon the red flag disturbances in Brisbane as an opportunity to stifle Bolshevik activity in the state. Fifteen men, mostly Russian and Irish, were gaoled for an average of six months each for carrying the red flag in the march; an offence punishable by a £10 fine in other states. Spring–Summer 2005 memeNto 3