The 1996 “Squeegee Punk” Riot
Interview with John Coinner by Louis Rastelli
From Vol. 1 No. 5, 1999
Ever since the parliament buildings got torched here last century and the mob fought off the firemen who tried to put it out, riots have been part of our culture. They still seem to happen every spring, or everytime the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup, and they’re great social happenings if only because it seems everyone has an anecdote to tell about them.
This issue we got an account of the semi-legendary ‘punk’ or ‘squeegee’ riot at Café So in May, 1996, and also a piece that deals with, in a way, the HLI Conference incidents in 95.
There are many others, like the Food Not Bombs riot, the recent June 24 ‘Bonfire’ riot, the several Stanley Cup ones, the little-known ‘Referendariot’ and others, & you’re all invited to write in with any stories you have of them.
Usually the lesson learned at the end of these riot-things is that the cops, if they didn’t outright start the riot by showing up and calling it one, didn’t ever help much to stop them. It would be nice if through these stories we could learn how to deal with these incidents a little better, how to let them fizzle out, or what the cops should or should not do or what. These would be good things to figure out, seeing as all of Canada’s army reserves are supposedly being called up and made to patrol the streets on New Year’s, 1999. If they go out in panic mode like some of these riot cops have done in the past, it could get pretty ugly & that wouldn’t be good for anyone except journalists.
1: “Birth of a stereotype”
the Café So incident
The Café So incident happened just down the street from where I lived at the time, and unfortunately I’d picked that night to just stay home. I didn’t hear much going on outside or anything, but the next day a friend of mine came by who was there and told me all about what I’d missed. Here’s what he told me:
‘Some punks started it in front of Café So. They had their hands stamped and were trying to get back into the show, and they wouldn’t let them in. I heard there were some undercover cops in the show from the beginning, supposedly to check for a fire violation. There was a scene at the door when no one was being let in, and some cops showed up. They kept saying keep moving, keep moving, but the band just started & they wanted to see the show. Eventually the cops took two guys into a cruiser, then after awhile the punks smashed the window of the cruiser and hauled the guys back out. They trashed the cop car and hit one of the cops.