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    Vancouver's riot and the perils of naivete

    Gather 150,000 into a public place. Let many of them get drunk. Have maybe 300 cops on hand. The result was predictable mayhem, followed by an orgy of blame-shifting.

    Riotous times in Vancouver.

    Riotous times in Vancouver. Wikipedia

    Canuck fever in downtown Vancouver

    Canuck fever in downtown Vancouver Sue Frause

    A little over a week after the unsettling Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver, people around the city are still struggling to understand what happened. It's not an edifying story.

    Amid all the allegations there is at least one striking miscalculation. Really, if the city, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the police are going to set up an event where 150,000 people, many of them drunk, are gathered in one place with nothing to do after a game ends, they ought to be able to protect innocent people and adjacent property. Boston had 1,000 police on hand for its parade, compared to Vancouver’s 300-or-so. (More about the police response below.)

    Here are the basic facts. Immediately following the Vancouver Canucks’ 4-0 loss in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup hockey finals, the estimated 150,000 fans congregated to watch the game on city-sponsored big screens downtown boiled over. They overturned and burned cars; they smashed store windows along Georgia Street; they grabbed Coach handbags and cool cameras off the shelf; employees cowered for hours in protected rooms at the back of the stores. In all, 117 people were arrested, 150 injured, including nine police officers, and uncountable numbers of people were photographed.

    Vancouverites have twisted themselves up into enough rationalization positions to start a new school of post-riot psycho-yoga. Blame has been spread wider and faster than a Youtube posting. “Lock up the goons and whip some sense into them,” is one prevailing sentiment. (The records from the arrests at the 2010 Olympics suggest that few if any will do any jail time.) The Georgia Straight newspaper published an article by a psychologist saying this was totally normal predictable behavior based on the way the brain is wired to respond in crowd situations — “Evolution made me do it.”

    Others are blaming the Canucks, whose slogan “We are All Canucks” in this hockey-mad city presumably includes embracing the razor-sharp violence of fist-fights and concussion-inducing collisions that we love about the sport: i.e. angry fans did it.

    Many are pointing fingers at Mayor Gregor Robinson and Police Chief Jim Chu, who has gone into hiding from the media in recent days. It was a few anarchists who came downtown with shopping lists for looted goods who started it all, they first told us. Later, having been corrected, they expanded their blame network. Yes it was (male) kids next door in their hyper-extended adolescent years who went crazy on alcohol, testosterone, and a chance to get immortalized on Facebook.

    Others blame the boredom and alienation of living in Vancouver’s “sick society” and not being able to afford a house or even a lousy $1,500 ticket to the final game. (Based on someone’s analysis of Craigslist postings of looted goods for sale, however, two thirds of the looters were from municipalities outside Vancouver.)

    Was the riot a natural extension of the chronic lawlessness and rampant street drug use so well established in the nearby Downtown Eastside neighborhood? After all, Vancouver leads the country in both bank robberies and lenient sentences for convicted bank robbers. Or was it just part of the city’s history of pointless riots like the 1966 Grey Cup (football) riot and the 1994 Stanley Cup riots?

    It was our lack of love, said the dean of Christ Church Cathedral, who led a procession of peace and a traditional First Nations' Smudge Cleansing Purifying Ceremony at the scene a week later.

    We don't need ingenious theories. No one seriously thinks this event had any conscious cause other than stupid young male self-expression run amok. “It is obvious that these brats are bored — never had to fight for anything in their lives such as oppression, food or freedom,” snarled one online commentator. “They got everything on a silver plate. No discipline, no respect, and most of all no sign of intelligence.”

    Whoever did it, we’ll drag every last yob to justice, vowed our new Premier Christy Clark and the mayor immediately after the event. That was a stern turnaround from the mayor’s la-la come-on-down Go-Canucks-Go cheerleading of a few hours earlier. Ironically, former mayor Philip Owen was booed off the political stage after famously asking Vancouver residents not to come downtown to celebrate New Year’s eve in 1999. Every mayor since then has been leaning out to prove we’re not a “no-fun” city.

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    Posted Wed, Jun 29, 7:13 a.m. Inappropriate

    Who even knew that Paul Schell had been elected mayor of Vancouver, B.C. and that Norm Stamper was the police chief?


    Posted Wed, Jun 29, 3:18 p.m. Inappropriate

    150,000 drunks vs 300 police!!!!

    Posted Tue, Jul 5, 9:02 a.m. Inappropriate

    New information suggests that the number of people downtown was closer to 100,000-120,000 and the police presence may have been 500-plus. But the police chief still refuses to even tell the mayor, never mind the public, how many officers were deployed, claiming he needs to keep the number confidential to protect police security, or something. Really? How would releasing that number have any impact on future riots?


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