Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter XXIV page 2
Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir
In a few minutes every tram passing by the barracks in Russell Street was boarded by squads of police, and as we reached Flinders Street some forty troopers came at the gallop over Princes Bridge . Not a single striker was to be seen anywhere near the wharves; it was a false alarm.
The Government, however, had now taken up the matter seriously. A formal Proclamation was issued, forbidding all unlawful assemblies, etc, and people waited to see what would follow next.
THE PEOPLE’S FORUM
Great was the anger of the strikers and their leaders. A monster meeting was held on the Sunday following the Proclamation, at which there was a vast concourse of strikers, sympathisers, and sightseers. Of course, a goodly number of police were also on the ground. The Yeomanry cavalry, who had been drawn in from the country some weeks before, were at their barracks with easy call if required.
It is never possible to tell beforehand what turn things may take in the case of such large gatherings as this of which I speak. A few hot-heads or a small lot of drunken rowdies may start a serious disturbance. The police, too, require to exercise prudence, and not be too officious in their interference. On this particular occasion they were kept in sections of 20 or 30 on the outside of the crowd. We were on the ground in good time and watched the streams of people in their Sunday best, as they approached their meeting-place, the Friendly Societies ground. They streamed in from all sides, wives and sweethearts mingled together with their male friends, a very certain sign, in the case of Melbourne assemblies at least, that no serious disorder was expected.
There were several platforms from which the leaders of the strikers and others spoke. Of course, there was the usual denunciations of tyrant rules, and other tall talk, but it all somehow seemed to fall flat, and when the speakers began to compliment the police on their non-interference with the right of free speech, it was plain that the whole affair was becoming a fiasco.
I do not know what news was being conveyed to the military authorities in the barracks, but I was continually receiving messages from the officer in charge there. He must have received some curious intelligence, for he evidently was greatly excited, and asked repeatedly where he should draw up his men. My answers were at first verbal, but as he grew more and more urgent, I scribbled a note in pencil, telling him that everything was going on quietly, and begging him to keep his men out of sight altogether.
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