If everyone who claimed to have been at the Christie Pits race riot actually were, there wouldn’t have been any room to pull a punch.
“Memory played tricks on them,” he said of the witnesses interviewed for The Riot At Christie Pits, his definitive book about the event co-authored with colleague Dr. William Shaffir.
“When we asked them which teams were involved, many of them got the wrong teams. People got the wrong years. And estimates in terms of the number of people involved varied widely from a couple thousand people in the park to 10,000,” he said.
“It was a very different response than the one that came from their parents, who were mostly immigrants: ‘Don’t make waves. Be quiet, it’ll pass,'” said Dr. Levitt.
Instead, the second-generation Jews on the field braved the ire of their families (Dr. Levitt said they were more fearful of what their parents would do if they found out they’d fought in the riot than the riot itself ), and fought.
“In a sense it was a badge of honour,” he said, “which is why so many people claim to have been there even if they hadn’t –and why it’s so important.”