Street Brawl of 1960
by Belinda Crowson
Occasionally violence has erupted onto Lethbridge’s streets. One incident people may recall is the street brawl of 1960.
In November, 1960, a fight broke out between police and people attending an event at the Hungarian Hall on Second Avenue South. The Lethbridge Herald described the brawl as the “worst outbreak of violence in Lethbridge since the war.” (November 14, 1960) It all began when the police responded to the report of a fight on the street outside the Hungarian Hall. When the police arrived, the fight had ended but they noted two men standing outside drinking alcohol and decided to arrest them. The men, who had likely come to Canada following the Hungarian Uprising of 1956, were used to more relaxed European drinking laws where it was legal to drink out of doors. When the police tried to arrest them, they resisted. Bystanders soon intervened on behalf of the two men and the police were required to call for assistance.
At the height of the fight, up to 50 people were actively involved in the melee with another 200 people on site as bystanders. The fight involved all of the Lethbridge City Police on night patrol as well as six RCMP officers. Several firemen from the fire hall next door also became involved and the fight was only ended when the fire department turned hoses onto the combatants. The fire department later suggested that the police get their own water cannons so they didn’t have to become involved. Several Indigenous men downtown stepped in to assist the police.
The police arrested several people and were required to run a shuttle service to get everyone to the station. At the end of the fight, four knives, two screw-drivers and a sledge-hammer were confiscated by the police. Beer bottles, bricks, glass, and other debris were littered across the scene. Four cars (three of them police cars) were damaged during the incident.
Following the brawl, twelve men received four months in Lethbridge Provincial Jail and one woman was sent to Fort Saskatchewan for a month. Additionally, several men were hurt including John Pocza, Constable William Howill, Alan Standing Alone, Joe Bewis and Frank Boranyi.