Vancouver Feature: Mob Storms Chinatown and Japantown

The events of September 7, 1907 began with an evening parade down Hastings Street. 5,000 men, white badges fluttering from their buttonholes, marched and listened to fiery speeches on the perils of Asian immigration. Then someone shouted “On to Chinatown!” and all hell broke loose.

BC’s Asian Exclusion League was formed to keep out immigrants from Asia in the early years of the 20th Century. Besides white working men’s fear of competition by cheap labour, the movement was fueled by the racial prejudice that was rampant in Canadian society of the day.

On the mob’s first foray into Chinatown they threw rocks and broke windows. They stormed the neighborhood again, and this time they fired guns. The terrified residents huddled inside. The emboldened mob turned to the Powell Street area known as Japantown. Here they met a different reception: Japanese men lined rooftops, ready to defend their homes. The mob thought better of this assault.