The General Strike (5-6 May 1926)
The Corn Exchange
On the 5th and 6th of May disturbances occurred in the town centre due to the continued operation of some trams and buses on a reduced service. On the first day, a tram was forced to stop as its windows were smashed by lumps of coal. The next day trams and buses were again stoned. Violet Snowden, one of those arrested, was told by a magistrate: “You women ought to use your influence to keep the menfolk quiet”.
In 1926 the Trades Union Congress called for a general strike to protest the wage reductions for 1.2 million locked out miners. With 1.7million workers joining the strike the government responded by bringing in middle-class volunteers to keep essential services running; with this action the government defeated the nine day strike with very little violence across the country – however, in Leeds, this wasn’t quite the case.
On Thursday 5th and Friday 6th May, crowds numbering over a thousand gathered around the Corn Exchange to protest the continuing service (albeit reduced) of trams and buses. On the Thursday, using coal stolen from a lorry, protesters smashed the windows of a tram forcing it to stop on Duncan Street. The following day more trams and buses were forced to stop by further crowds throwing missiles. Police used hoses and truncheons to subdue the crowd with minor injuries and arrests reported.