“We don’t have lynchings here”: Vigilantism, Race, and Contested Justice in Niagara, Ontario, 1920
At the preliminary hearing in a child murder case in Niagara, Ontario in 1920, a mob set fire to the venue and nearly hanged the defendant. His appeal to the crowd to “be Britishers” with “Canadian” rather than “American values” supposedly spared his life. However, reading the riot based on local historical conditions, and repeated, racialized criticisms of the justice system, provides a more illuminative interpretation of the defendant’s capture and release by the mob. This interpretation—which explores systems of justice, vigilantism, and race—is developed from new scholarship on vigilantism and lynching that views them transnationally, as expressions of community dissatisfaction with modern justice systems. In this context, racialized perceptions of crime and anxieties about “dangerous foreigners” can be aggravating factors.