Friday, 17 June 2011

Public Disgrace

Here is an unfinished post from last week, when my city was alive and joyous due to the NHL playoffs:

My city is alive with Canucks fever! If you want to know how I got my seat on the bandwagon, read my previous post here. They set up big screens and hundreds of thousands of screaming fans flock to the streets to (hopefully) celebrate a win. Last Friday, we won game 5 on home ice. I didn’t even see the winning goal, as I was a bit far back from the screens. I still knew we scored because it suddenly got so loud! Horns and screams and people holding up their huge homemade Stanley cups. I personally had blue pom poms that I hoarded from my workplace during the Olympics. I had meant to bring some bam bams that I also hoarded, but I forgot.

I sincerely hope that my city can continue to celebrate in such an orderly fashion. I mean, it was incredibly crowded, and there were a lot of intoxicated people, and a huge police presence, but everything seemed calm and orderly. There was the odd person that felt the need to disrobe and climb something, and the police would urge them down, and it was usually slowly done and the police didn’t panic.

The Olympics really taught Vancouverites how to party. North America is one of the only places that prohibit drinking anywhere outside of a restaurant or bar. Many countries have public celebrations with beer kiosks on the streets (mind you, these countries also have a more efficient transit system that runs much later than ours). Vancouver has been labeled “No Fun City” in the past, and any celebration that drew crowds had the police in a panic, resulting in a negative atmosphere, and intoxicated people pushing the limits, fighting, littering, and eventually getting arrested.  The leeway that the police showed us during the Olympics encouraged people act civilized.

A picture stolen from The Province newspaper, taken on a night prior to the evening of the riots. Wanted to demonstrate the magnitude of the crowds, but there were many more people out on the night of Game 7.

I decided to wait to complete this entry and post it, as even at the time, I was unable to believe the words I was typing. Turns out I was right. I was afraid that the actions of my fellow Vancouverites would render me incorrect and embarrassed.  It is a good thing I waited. After game 7, on June 15th, riots broke out in downtown Vancouver, resulting in millions of dollars worth of damage, countless injuries, and a complete abandonment of civic pride.

 I am seriously sickened and upset; it’s an interesting feeling. I haven’t been this disappointed in a long time. I compare the feeling to that of being cheated on. Simply betrayed. I couldn’t tear myself from the television, watching the horrific scene unfold. Hoards of people were causing 1st degree mayhem: smashing everything in site, flipping over cars and lighting them on fire, looting form numerous stores.  At first I thought that the police were panicking when they started to unleash tear gas on the crowds and that it was a bad idea that could result in trampling. I also assumed that it would increase the anger in the crowds and that the anger would now be specifically directed at the police. After watching a bit more and talking to people who were stuck in the crowd, I changed my mind… it would have been a tough situation, as it was so crowded, and all police wanted was people to leave.

Young people have always had a bad name. As a semi-young person, I always disagreed, and would think “were not all like that”. The thing about last night is that it wasn’t just a few people acting out. There were over a hundred thousand people crammed into our little streets and it was more than a handful of people damaging property, fighting, throwing Molotov cocktails into stores, looting, blowing up cop cars, and trying to fight police… there were thousands of people protesting nothing. I think that they thought that they were going to “fight for the right to party” but really, they already had that right and will no longer after the other  night’s debacle.

My frustration grew as I  heard the newscaster state that it was not safe to get fire and ambulance crews into the downtown core to put out the numerous fires that had been started on the streets (cars, practically every garbage can, and miscellaneous bon fires),  but I think that it was less safe to have these fires burning. People were drunkenly beating each other, and several people had to be hospitalized. The ambulance should have been on site in case someone was critically injured. I broke out in goose bumps as I saw the image of an alleged Bruins fan laying on the ground after being assaulted by several men.

A quote form one of the news anchors: “people were so excited for their beloved Canucks” but this had nothing to do with hockey at all. This was the animal inside of us coming out. It was classic mob mentality; we see it at protests and during wars. This was neither of those things. The images of people running around, looting stores and breaking windows with balaclavas on their faces and t shirts over their heads reminded me of a war zone. It looked like we were under attack by some sort of shady militia. These people came out to the city (for the most part they weren’t downtown residents) and were obviously prepared for mayhem. A bus driver from Surrey was on the news stating that she overheard several conversations while driving people from surrey out to the train stations. The disaster that erupted was completely pre-meditated. Truly 1st degree. . They were armed with hammers and miscellaneous weapons. They were obviously armed with explosive liquid for Molotov cocktails ahead of time, as it would have been difficult to obtain during the riot… there were countless being thrown into building, police cars, etc. This would have happened even if we won the stupid hockey game.

In a situation like this, people look around for someone or something to blame. It wasn’t hockey, it wasn’t the police. It was partly the thugs that insisted on gross misconduct, and it was partly the fault of the city and CBC for encouraging people to assemble on the streets and assuming that they would simply have a good time. I think that most to blame is the internet revolution. A lot of bystanders remained, causing a lot of congestion in the crowds. They were all taking video and pictures, immediately uploading them to Facebook, Youtube, etc. they didn’t want to leave because the wanted to catch the next big thing that happened on film. They wanted to be the 1st to post it. I may have done the same thing if I was there. Or not, it’s hard to say. I’d like to say that I would have been so disgusted by the scene that I would have attempted to leave. I like to think I am  smart enough to not ignore the riot act “ if you leave we will eave you alone, if you stay further action will be taken and you will be arrested” but, perhaps the journalist that dwells deep inside of me would have been compelled to stay. All I know is that if I was in any way participating, it would have been caught on camera. I would get fired from my job in an instant.

I shudder at the thought of all the suburban people that came out to cause trouble, drinking all day in the city and then getting in their cars and driving home. If you are intoxicated enough to burn police cars, then you probably shouldn’t be driving. I fight tears when I hear of critical injuries and stabbings. I am appalled by the thought of the normal families that were attending the show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre that weren’t allowed to leave and were locked inside for hours because it was not safe to leave. All of this started to happen in broad daylight! None of the participants even considered that they weren’t anonymous.

I am trying really hard to stop dwelling on the events of the other night. I try to tell myself that since I wasn’t a participant and neither were any of my friends, that I shouldn’t be embarrassed, and that I shouldn’t hate my city. The thing is, a country, a city, a province, a state, a county, is all defined by its people. Now, in front of an international audience, we have defined ourselves as uncivilized primates, with absolutely no patriotism or pride. It really is a shame, and it will certainly take a long time for us to regain our reputation as The Best Place on Earth.

This picture (stolen from Facebook) really puts it in perspective.


  1. When I heard about it I was shocked too. I've never been to Vancouver but I always wanted to, thinking it was a gorgeous city filled with great people. The whole thing was so saddening.

  2. It is a wonderful city, this was a very small percentage. Unfortunately, it only takes a few to cause mass destruction! I hope you manage to visit soon! Our summers are lovely!

  3. Your from BC Steph... me too... We BC girls need to stick together, so I am going to press the follow button darlin!!!