Victoria, B.C. — I feel sick for and about Vancouver. Last night, following the Canucks’ loss of the final Stanley Cup game to the Boston Bruins, hundreds of hooligans went berserk and trashed the city. They overturned and burned cars, they smashed windows, they looted stores.
It was 1994 in the city all over again, but worse. Seventeen years ago, when the Canucks lost to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup, there was rioting in the streets of Vancouver. While I watched last night’s movie-like mayhem unfold on CTV and CBC here in Victoria, it reminded me of the 1999 WTO riots in Seattle. But those were protests and demonstrations over world politics, not the result of a hockey game gone sour.
I was in Vancouver for Game 5 on Friday night. The Canucks’ 1-0 victory over the Bruins resulted in dancing in the streets until the wee hours of the morning. It was a party. It was polite. It was oh, so Canadian. Vancouver was aglow as Canuck fever took over their city.
What a difference a few days make. The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, where I watched Friday’s game from the lobby lounge, was among the numerous buildings and businesses that suffered damage. A newspaper box was hurled through the window of the Louis Vuitton boutique. My friend who works at the hotel posted this on Facebook: “I can't believe this is happening again, total mayhem in the streets. Pretty scary out there. Be safe everyone.”
My Facebook page was loaded with comments after I posted this update on Facebook: ”Fires, tear gas, broken windows, young males going wild while crowds cheer them on. O Canada, we weep for thee.” My update elicited responses from both Canadians (“Disgusting behaviour. These people are not fans but merely looking for an excuse to wreak havoc.”) and Americans (“They’re acting so American.”). Another U.S. Facebook friend, attending a performance at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre, posted: “Watching 'Wicked' turned wicked. Great musical, and outside riots broke out when the Canucks lost. They've released us from the theater and we're on our way home. Safe and sound.”
It’s definitely not the kind of publicity a city wants. Tourism Vancouver posted this statement on its Facebook page: “This is a sad day for Vancouver. Rest assured that this is a small group of people that have caused these problems, and their actions in no way represent Vancouver.” They’re also asking people to post positive things on Twitter by using the hashtag #ThisIsMyVancouver. “Let’s dominate the twittersphere with positive messages about our beautiful city,” was their update this morning.
No surprise that the riots were also a trending topic on Twitter last night, resulting in this headline from "The Next Web": Twitter playing big role in reporting of Vancouver riot. And the local bloggers were jumping in, too. Rebecca Bollwitt, author of the popular Vancouver blog "Miss 604," posted Vancouver Canucks Riot Aftermath, How To Help.
Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, issued a statement via email this morning:
The DVBIA wishes to express its shock and dismay regarding the criminal activities that unfolded on the evening of June 15, 2011. We do not have an early estimate of the damages to businesses. We encourage our members to save video footage and photographs of any looting or other criminal activities. We will seek guidance from the Vancouver Police Department on how you can forward this information to the authorities so that the perpetrators can be apprehended and prosecuted. Again, it is so unfortunate that what was a celebratory event on previous evenings over the course of the last two weeks degenerated into acts of violence and criminality.
Those acts of violence and criminality were caught on camera and video during the riots, and a Facebook page has been created where people can post their photos, simply called Vancouver Riot Pics. The hope is that the perpetrators will be identified and dealt with. This morning, the clean-up of B.C.’s largest city is underway. Again, Facebook jumped in, with a page called Post Riot Clean-Up: Let’s Help Vancouver. So far, it’s attracted nearly 12,000 people who have offered to lend a hand to put their city back together again. Go Vancouver Go.