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St. John’s Election Riot of 1861

On 13 May 1861, 2,000 protesters gathered outside the Colonial Building in St. John’s, Newfoundland. They objected to actions taken by the colony’s governor, Sir Alexander Bannerman, during the recent, highly contentious election; he had defied responsible government and install a new, Conservative government. The protest turned into a riot that damaged property and resulted in the deaths of three people. It took months to settle the political stalemate. The Conservatives won by-elections in disputed ridings and remained in power. The riot led to new laws that protected polling stations, saw police officers keep the peace instead of soldiers, and discouraged events and practices that could lead to violence.

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